BRIAN Maule drops his knife and looks appalled. The chef, who trained under the famous Roux Brothers and has cooked for royalty as well as film stars, has just discovered he is in the company of someone who has never eaten a steak.
He turns back to the chopping board in the kitchen of his top city restaurant, Chardon D'Or, and waves a piece of raw beef in the air: "This is for you," he tells me, before throwing the meat into a steaming hot pan full of butter along with a dozen other cuts.
It's Tuesday lunchtime in this small slice of France on West Regent Street.
Customers – mostly business types and groups of friends – are flooding into the bright and airy eatery looking for food.
On the lunch menu is succulent salmon and roast pork, as well as Scotch beef.
Scottish Chef of the Year Brian, 43, and his team have been preparing for hours.
"We had 20 tables in at lunchtime yesterday, plus a party of 40," Brian says, to demonstrate how hectic it can be.
He is in the kitchen by 9am each day chopping the veg, cutting the meat or marinating the foie gras.
When the lunch orders begin coming through, the kitchen quickly turns to organised chaos as Brian and five staff appear to dance around each other, dropping food in steaming hot pans and presenting picture-perfect meals.
After the cleaning is done the team do it all again for the evening eaters.
Stevenston-born Brian is rarely home by midnight ...six days a week.
At Christmas he often works seven days from 7am until midnight.
Does it ever get too much?
"I can't stop for a moment or I just fall asleep," Brian admits.
"I think everyone has low points, whether it is through fatigue or tiredness."
He remembers working in a kitchen and noticing one of his colleagues had fallen asleep while chopping mushrooms.
"When I was in France I was living off four hours' sleep," he says. "But you have to fight through that.
"It's all about determination and how much you actually want it."
Brian began his cooking career in the Irvine Hospitality Inn – now the Skean Dhu – after his Home Economics teacher secured him a placement there.
He then went on to study in Lyon, France, before working for the Roux brothers at their London restaurant Le Gavroche, where Gordon Ramsay also did a stint.
Brian employs just under 30 staff at Chardon D'Or, which opened in 2001.
However, it is not easy working for the top chef.
One of his workers quietly tells me Brian is not afraid to express himself.
Brian later admits: "Some workers leave after two months because they find it hard. But if it's not right it doesn't go on the plate.
"To me, whatever job you do you have got to give more than 100% all the time."
After being brought up on a typical Scottish diet of mince and tatties, Brian became fascinated by different flavours.
"It was an eye opener to see all these ingredients, like fresh herbs and cheese," he says.
"I probably was a fussy eater before I became a chef."
Brian has been asked to take part in television cooking programmes and says he may consider going down that route in the future, like his pal Ramsay.
"I have been approached," he says. "I had an interview for a part in Masterchef with Michel Roux (which chef Monica Galetti got). It was an experience just going for the interview."
"I used to see Gordon a lot when I was in London, but now I am up here he is down there or in America."
Brian has cooked for famous faces, including Princess Diana, Rod Stewart, Morgan Freeman and, more recently, Halle Berry while she was filming in Glasgow.
"The likes of the superstars need a bit more privacy," he says, but that's as much special treatment as they get. Everyone is important. Everyone is here because they love food."
There is no doubt the chef, who lives with wife Susan, 40, and children Kiaran, 14, Eilidh, 12, and Bryony, 11, in Houston, Renfrewshire, is passionate about food.
And he wants to pass that down to his children.
"Cooking is my job and it is a passion to me, but I want the kids to have an understanding," he says.
"They eat chicken nuggets but they also have an understanding of eating the likes of prawns and fish.
"We eat very simply at home."
Working in one of the city's restaurants has not put him off dining out.
"If we go out we love Italian, Chinese and Indian," he says.
As the lunch service draws to a close Brian lets me sample the salmon, which is as tasty as it looks.
Then it comes to the beef. It is a little pink on the inside but I am feeling brave.
"The first bite is tender, moist and delicious.
"I went from eating meat well done to working in France and getting a steak sandwich on the back of van, just slapped together, and it's still going moo," says Brian, with a knowing look on his face.
"I couldn't eat that then, but that is the way I like it now.
"It is about breaking that down for people. If it is done properly it will taste perfect."