ON the video they make an entertaining double-act, chefs Brian Maule and his old friend, Michel Roux Jnr, able to joke at each other’s expense and get away with it.

Roux came up from London the other month to Maule’s Glasgow restaurant, the Chardon d’Or, for its annual evening in honour of Le Gavroche, the celebrated London restaurant which Roux runs, and where Maule became head chef at just 24. In a Facebook video, shot on a phone, Roux jokes with “my dear buddy” as the assembled diners laugh. He says: “I can’t believe it’s 17 years” since the Chardon d’Or opened. “Where the hell did that go?”

Good question. Glasgow’s restaurant scene, casual and fine-dining, has changed since 2001. Some big names have wilted and disappeared. Other restaurants have tried to take their place, some with more success than others. It was reported in March that one in three of the UK’s leading 100 restaurant groups is loss-making, thanks to rising business rates, slacking consumer confidence and higher staff costs. Maule, however, is still here, even if he has had to dart from plate to plate, keeping them all spinning as one challenge after another has cropped up.

Now, as of Saturday, Maule will be The Herald Magazine’s new chef, each week offering recipes that readers can recreate in their kitchens. “Being able to do whatever food is in season is interesting,” he says, seated at one of his tables, barely 40 minutes before a lunchtime service begins. “It’s important for people, I think, to see what’s available out there.

“Obviously, we have a French influence in the restaurant but I try to utilise as many Scottish ingredients as we possibly can. We’ll be running a few tried-and-tested recipes in the magazine but it also gives us the opportunity to try new things. In terms of seasonality,” he adds, “there’s asparagus, and salady, lighter foods are coming back in, because we’re supposed to be having better weather.”

He casts a quick glance outside onto West Regent Street, where for the time being it’s decidedly overcast. “Hopefully, as the weather gets better, people will start eating a lot more fish, salads, and getting away from meats. Because of the weather across Europe and the snows last month, everything’s running a wee bit behind schedule and there’s a slight delay for Scottish raspberries and strawberries.”

Maule, who turns 50 this year, was still in his teens when he left his Ayrshire home and headed for Lyon, the gastronomic centre of France, to learn his craft. He once said that while there he lived off only four hours’ sleep, “but you have to fight through that.” His skills and growing confidence brought him to the attention of the Roux brothers, Albert and Michel snr, whose Le Gavroche was the first British restaurant to earn three Michelin stars, in 1982. When they appointed Maule head chef he found himself in charge of a brigade of 18 chefs.

In 2001 he came back home to open Brian Maule at Chardon d’Or. “I aim eventually,” he told The Herald, “to offer the best food in Scotland but, as I build it up, I will stick to the principles and follow the methods that have made Le Gavroche what it is today.”

His reputation had spread to the point where, in late 2007, a leading London restaurant critic described the place as “startlingly good”, even if he had initially thought that “on its own, the prefixing of a chef’s name to that of a restaurant is an unmistakable harbinger of doom.” Maule, he added, was a “classical French cook who is pleasingly unafraid to use life-shortening amounts of cream and butter.” In 2012 The Herald Magazine’s restaurant critic, Ron Mackenna, said that the place had “matured into the place to dine in Glasgow, especially if, it seems, you’re organising a sophisticated dinner.”

Today the restaurant features an elegant glass-fronted display cabinet. Amidst the bottles of gin and the whisky decanters there’s a copy of Le Gavroche cookbook, signed by Roux Jnr, as well a clutch of accolades Maule has won over the years. It prompts the question, how are things going? His response is an interesting insight into the challenges facing anyone who dreams of making a success of a restaurant.

“Things are doing well, but no-one pretends it’s easy,” he says. “Fortunately, I’m still here, after 17 years in the restaurant and 12 years downstairs, where we have private dining rooms. We survived the crash of 10 years ago but we had to tighten our belt, the same as everybody else. It was a lesson in terms of discipline all round. It made you a lot more aware.

“Downstairs was a massive investment for us, when we built private rooms more for the corporate business. Unfortunately a lot of that business has dried up on the professional level. Journalists, architects and lawyers don’t have the same eating-out budget as they once did. The drink-driving laws have also had an impact on the country,” he adds. (A new law came into force in 2014, which had the effect of making Scotland’s legal drink-drive limit lower than anywhere else in the UK). Many diners who drive, he believes, have become reluctant to touch alcohol with their dinner, because of the new law.

“The country’s struggling when it comes to food and drink outlets,” he continues. “There are independent restaurants and pubs closing left, right and centre, unfortunately, but there are always going to be other places opening.” (It’s been reported that The Ivy is to open in Buchanan Street this Spring, though a spokeswoman told The Herald last week that there was no further information or news “to share at this time”).

“If you walk through the city centre you’ll see lots of empty units,” the chef continues. “I don’t know how longer that is going to go on for. They’re bringing in all these big chains, the multi-nationals, and they’re all closing slowly. Byron Burgers has gone [after just 18 months].” He says many in the industry think it’s time for a “more common-sense approach” on business rates from local authorities.

In order to attract and keep new customers, he has devised gin days, once a month, and cocktail days, once every two months. They have done well for him, he says. The wine dinners sell out, and “the Michel Roux dinners sell out like that,” he adds, with a snap of his fingers. A la carte diners are offered a gin or whisky of the month. Vegetarian customers are catered for, too; the current menu includes crushed turnip, dauphinoise potatoes, savoy cabbage, and wild mushrooms.

When it comes to food trends, Maule acknowledges, “they’re changing all the time. You had the burger and lobster thing for a while. There’s a lot of steakhouses opening again. Sushi is fading a wee bit, but the likes of Chinese and Korean and Thai are there or thereabouts.” Push him and he admits to liking Korean, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Italian when he eats out with his wife Susan and their family. He’s been known to enjoy the odd pub-lunch, too. And, of course, “I enjoy the food I cook here.”

“I’ve always said I’m here for the long run,” Maule adds. “I’ll be here for another few years yet. I believe in what we do. We try to give value for money. Quality has to be the number one thing and I try to instil that in my staff. I enjoy bringing the young kids through and seeing them develop not just as chefs but on a personal level, as individuals, outside the kitchen, too.

“So if I can help them move on, and they feel they’re ready to move on, down south or wherever it is they want to go, that’s all to the good. I’ve sent people from here all over the world over the last 17 years. But they have to be ready for it.

“It’s a different work environment now. Working hours have been cut massively in the kitchen, though the young people here still need to work weekends. I’ve been thinking back to when I was younger. I knew that I would have to put in really long hours if I wanted to take responsibility on a senior level.

“If I had worked for only eight hours [in the kitchen] I would only have done one service and that would have made it difficult for me to acquire the skills necessary to run a kitchen for both lunch and dinner service, and eventually go on to do my own thing.”

For years he would arrive at 6am and work through ‘til midnight. Now, though, he has eased back, ever so slightly. “This place is closed on Sundays and Mondays. It was only last April that we began closing on these days. I just got to the stage where I was getting tired, doing the six days.

“Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy doing what I’m doing, I enjoy teaching, I enjoy the buzz. This is like anybody else’s job. There are days when you get fed up with it. When you’re having a bad day, it’s bad. There’s no in-between. Things are going badly, the service is bad, the boys aren’t performing.

“You’re kidding yourself on if you think these days aren’t going to happen, but hopefully we can rectify it before the food leaves the kitchen. If we have made a mistake, the boys out front can bring it back and we fix it so that people can have the Brian Maule experience by the end of their meal.

“I’m still learning every day with the kids here,” he adds. “It’s been a steep learning curve for me, these last 10, 12 years.” And with that, he really has to go. The first of the lunchtime customers are on their way.

Brian Maule’s first recipe will appear in The Herald Magazine on Saturday.