'Every single one of them was like, please, for the love of God, do something else' : Calum Ralston on joining his culinary family as a chef

The  Staff Canteen

Calum Ralston's family always told him not be a chef. He defied them - and he's glad that he did

Calum - brother to Scott Ralston, executive chef at Compass Edinburgh, and Stuart Ralston, chef and owner of Aizle and Noto - was recently named head chef at Superico in the Scottish capital, with the task of leading the restaurant into a new phase of existence.

“They wanted to take it in a different direction, and I wanted to move in a different direction,"  he said of the restaurant, formerly known as 83 Hanover Street. "So, for me, it just felt like a really natural fit."

And so, he and general manager Mike Lynch got to work. They are now ten weeks in, and the chef is happy with how the project is progressing.

Calum, who previously worked at the Chophouse in Bruntsfield, said what really drew him to the opportunity was the freedom it offered. He said: “The message to me was you've really got free reign to do what you want.”

“There were a few parameters, obviously. They wanted to keep it as a small plates-big plates style menu, which I was really happy with,” as it fit his personal style and experience from his time at the White Horse Oyster bar with his brother Scott.

Career History

Coming from a culinary family, you would expect it to be an obvious decision for Calum to become a chef, but far from it: "The funny thing was when I was much younger, all my family told me the same thing, which is 'don't be a chef,'” he said.

“Every single one of them was like 'please, for the love of God, do something else,' Because everyone was a chef and I think they were all just a bit like 'you should try doing something else instead of just being a chef like the rest of us'.”

Calum did start on a different path, working towards an English Literature degree at university, with the idea of moving to New York, to "be a TV writer or something like that.”

He worked in kitchens part-time, and only wound up being a chef because of how often he helped his eldest brother Scott out when he was struggling with staff.

Even now, family is at the core of everything he does. Even though they advised him not to become a chef in the first place, it is to them that he turns for support in his career.

He said: “I think if I didn't have that I'd have maybe lost focus a little bit, I might have not continued to develop, and I probably would have plateaued.”

Perhaps because he joined the industry in such an unconventional way, Calum is still building on his identity as a chef. “I have actually got more into [being a chef] as time has gone on," he said. "I think there were a few years in my early career, where I really didn't like being a chef.”

“I'm more inspired today than I was at the start. I've kind of done it all in reverse - where I didn't want to do it and now I really love it - I can't really picture myself doing anything else now.” 

Plans for the future

In an immediate future, the chef has great plans for Superico. “In the long term,” he said, “the sky's the limit if it goes well.”

“Currently, the message is just to create something that is really good, that's making good money and people are really into and once we get to that point we'll talk further.”

Although he feels some pressure to succeed, it’s still early days, and the team is still getting into the swing of his new menu.

“Once we get the basics and the foundations done, which is what we are in the stages of doing right now, I really do feel like we can push it really far," he said,  especially thanks to the refurbishments undertaken in the restaurant and the sister site bar at 99 Hanover Street, which have made the project feel “like it's sitting waiting to be pushed.”

That pushing seems to be coming in the form of synergising the restaurant and its sister site, as, he added, “We really want to create a strong bond between the two."

"Because they are so close and they are right in the city centre of Edinburgh, I think it could give us a really good foothold in the market - having two places that carry our name and carry our quality. That's really where we want to push it.”

Despite the work ahead, Calum doesn’t seem fazed, just genuinely excited for what is yet to come.

He said: “I've had a lifetime of going to [my family's] places and them cooking for me. It's kinda nice that we're on the flipside of that now. I've got a place that I think can be really good and I'm really keen for them to come and try it.”

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th May 2022

'Every single one of them was like, please, for the love of God, do something else' : Calum Ralston on joining his culinary family as a chef