Stiltskin drummer quits music to be a chef

Ashley Macmillan with Suzie Dunko. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Ashley Macmillan with Suzie Dunko. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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just three years ago, he was thrashing the drums in front of 25,000 cheering fans in Warsaw. But now the closest he gets to an audience is chopping up carrots for viewers to STV Edinburgh’s Fountainbridge Show cooking segment.

It’s a career change that would set anyone’s head spinning, but Ashley Macmillan insists he’s finally found his true passion after more than a decade touring the world with rock outfit Stiltskin.

I was thinking more long-term – can I stay drumming until I retire? Do I want to do that?”

ASHLEY MACMILLAN

He decided to change direction and complete a six-month course at the Edinburgh School of Food and Wine at Newliston after becoming fed-up with the band’s gruelling schedule.

Ashley said: “There was a lot of wasted time in terms of all the travelling – waiting around in airports, on buses, with very little sleep. You finish a concert, and you’re in your hotel for a couple of hours to get a shower and you’re getting picked up by taxi to go somewhere else.

“I got married last year, and it wasn’t so much that I was looking for a quieter life. It was thinking more long-term – can I stay drumming until I retire? Do I want to do that?”

He’s now a qualified chef after passing his final exam – whipping up a five-course meal for guests and judges.

But it may be a little while before Capital foodies see Ashley running a kitchen of his own, like his friend Neil Forbes, chef director at New Town bistro Café St Honore, but he hopes to land a job soon.

He said: “I don’t think I’m in the place right now where I’d think about opening my own restaurant, because that’s going into the realms of running a business. I’d really like to go into a kitchen as a chef, and run a service, because I really do enjoy the aspect of getting everything out on time, perfectly.”

Ashley spent a decade touring the world alongside Ray Wilson, the guitarist who found fame with Stiltskin and Genesis.

The band had an instant breakthrough in 1994, when their first single, Inside, went to number one in the UK charts and became a Europe-wide hit. The song even featured in a TV ad campaign for Levis jeans.

Ashley began working with Ray in 2003, drumming in his solo gigs, before Stiltskin were reformed in 2006 and began touring again. The drummer said his Stiltskin highlight was also the biggest gig they played, helping to open the 2012 European Championships fanzone in the Polish capital, Warsaw.

“We were on before Taio Cruz, and there were 25,000 people there,” Ashley said. “I’ve got a terrific photo of me on the drums looking out at a sea of people. It was incredible.”

But now he’s hoping to make a name for himself with a different kind of drumstick.

“My other love is food,” said Ashley, who credits his mum’s “incredible” home cooking for fuelling his culinary passion. “I think that a lot of eating is with your eyes. What really appeals to me are the finer aspects of dining. A really well-presented meal enhances the flavour.

“I love all the preparation leading up to the cooking, and then you have that release when the dish is taken away to be served, and you’re proud of it because you know the work that’s gone into it.”

paris.gourtsoyannis@edinburghnews.com