Five Minutes With Stuart Ralston
Make no mistake, Edinburgh has always been a vibrant hub for eating out. However the Scottish capital’s flurry of recent openings is making the city charge full-steam ahead into becoming one of the most exciting dining destinations in the UK. There’s one chef in particular who’s paving the way. Stuart Ralston, owner and Head Chef of Edinburgh’s gems Noto and Aizle, and now recently opened tipo, shares his loves and hates of the food industry, plus gives us a glimpse into his new venture.
What’s your very first memory of food?
Probably my mum and dad’s cooking, I was lucky to grow up with both my parents cooking as their jobs. My mum would make so many things but I always remember her cooking the best Sunday roast and my dad sometimes making a late-night supper in the form of a quick carbonara.
What’s the first recipe you properly learned to make?
When I first got into professional cookery, I would copy all of Marco Pierre White’s books, so I remember making many a lemon tart with raspberry sorbet
What do you like to do to relax?
I enjoy many things as I get a little older. I try to stay off my phone and sit in my garden in the morning with my coffee and I go for a massage every so often. I spend too little time at home just simply sat on the couch watching TV so when I can, this relaxes me.
What’s the one dish you can’t live without?
I couldn’t live without a Sunday roast, it’s my weekly must. It’s just not Sunday without one… which is almost always my day off.
And what’s your signature drink?
My favourite drink is Puligny Montrachet , Olivier LeFlaive is my fave producer.
What is your favourite season of the year in produce terms?
Probably spring, the first time you start to see wild garlic, asparagus, lamb after the cold winter in Scotland. Spring really inspires me to be happier when cooking.
What ingredient would you take to a desert island with you?
I would probably take soy sauce with me; I need some flavour on something.
You can have a one-off dinner party on your island… who would you invite?
Dinner party wise, my wife, my kids, and I’d maybe ask Thierry Henry, Gordon Ramsay and David Chang.
It’s late at night, you’ve just got home. What are you rustling up for dinner?
I generally don’t eat at night but if I am to, then ideally a really great grilled cheese sandwich is my go-to, always with Branston Pickle.
Is there anything about the food industry that bugs you? We’d like to hear your thoughts…
Tonnes … no-shows, wasting food, people being rude to staff, lack of imagination in some food, VAT being so high on the restaurant industry.
What is the best food experience you’ve had so far in the UK? Something that you think everyone should try before they die?
Best meal I have had in the UK has been at L’Enclume and at Ikoyi, both very different but the most inspiring chefs and truly delicious – just leagues above.
What has been the most formative experience of your career?
Working at restaurant Gordon Ramsay in NYC, it changed me in every way. It showed me what it took to open such an amazing restaurant
Congratulations on the opening of your new Edinburgh-based restaurant tipo! How has the experience been so far, and how has the experience differed to the opening of your other restaurants? (Aizle and Noto)
Thank you. Opening tipo has been very smooth, I’ve been very fortunate to have had Jade and my brother Scott doing so much towards it, which was different to Aizle and Noto. Aizle was always hard as we were underfunded from the beginning, and Noto was done in seven weeks so the combination of having a larger budget and longer timeframe made it much less stressful.
How do you find suppliers for the amazing produce you use in the restaurant?
I’ve been back in Edinburgh for nine years, but before that I worked around Scotland, so was lucky to have met suppliers then that we still use today. New suppliers come to me a lot, they know the standard of restaurants I run so want to search me out a lot, but I ask a lot of questions also so researching suppliers is a huge part of my job.
What’s dish currently on the menu at tipo are you most proud of?
I love all the dishes at tipo, but my favourite is the simplest in essence. The bigoli cacio pepe, the combination of amazing semolina flour made into pasta and a sauce of pecorino and cracked black pepper is just perfect.
Do you have any aspirations and dreams you’ve yet to fulfil?
I believe my best is still to come in terms of cooking but I’m living my dream in some ways, mainly aspire to be better in all areas of my life as a dad, husband, friend and chef so I can look back and be content one day.
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