"I didn't want to be someone that couldn't hack that life"

The Staff Canteen

Showcasing recipes from Aizle and Noto, stories from his travels around the world, and even his experience working under Gordon Ramsay, Stuart Ralston’s debut book offers readers an exclusive insight into the world of one of Scotland’s best chefs.

Born in Glenrothes, Stuart Ralston has worked in some of the world’s most coveted culinary locations, including New York where he worked extensively with Gordon Ramsay, and Barbados.

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In April 2014, Stuart and his wife Krystal returned to Edinburgh to open Aizle, a Scottish bistro which married Stuart’s international culinary education with Scotland's finest produce.

Following critical acclaim, Stuart opened his second restaurant Noto in 2019, a casual take on his highly-acclaimed fine dining restaurant, featuring an a la carte menu showcasing food inspired by the chef's time in New York.

Documenting his travels, his recipes and their inspiration, Catalogued Ideas and Random Thoughts, traces Stuart’s evolution as a chef and restauranteur.

Describing the book in more detail, Stuart said: "The book is really a small part about my story and how I've gotten to where I've gotten to with the restaurants and my travels. A lot of the food is inspired by the places that I've worked and the places I've eaten at across the world."

"For enthusiastic home cooks there's really basic recipes that I think try and take a little bit of mystery out of eating, dining, and cooking for yourself,” he explained.

Stuart added: "On the flipside I know a lot of people would want the professional recipes that we do at Aizle or Noto, so I put a lot of those in there as well and that shows of a lot of the craft and evolution of the restaurants, giving an insight into the labour that goes into these things."

Creating a contrast between the recipes of his restaurants and the stories of his life and travels, was an important decision for Stuart, who hopes the book will also inspire future chefs in reaching their dreams and ambitions.

"I don't come from a wealthy family. I didn't have any help with opening my restaurants, no one gave me any money, or gave me a free restaurant or anything like that. It was more to get across to young people who are in the industry that it is very possible,” he explained.


After meeting Gordon Ramsay in Glasgow, Stuart embarked upon a move stateside to work at the chef’s newly opened Gordon Ramsay at the London in New York.

"I grew up in the nineties so I always obsessed with American culture, so New York was always appealing to me. I read that he was opening in New York, I wrote them a letter, I did a stage to get a trial at The Connaught to get the job in America,” explained Stuart.

Describing how it felt for him at the time, Stuart said: “I was elated but it also a very surreal feeling, I didn’t believe it was happening to someone like me."

Stuart began working with Gordon at the young age of 22, with the restaurant quickly gaining two Michelin Stars, in what he describes as a pivotal moment in his career.

Explaining the step-up for him, Stuart said: “It was a real eye opener and a massive jump from what I had done before, I had never done anything that high before, so just seeing how that was set up and working with people who has around him, everyday was a massive learning curve.”

“I had to work really hard just to be part of that team and just keep up with people, I learnt tonnes, I worked really hard, and it was just a really inspiring moment of how hard you can dig deep to get something that you want,” he added.

Whilst the move was a dream come true for Stuart, it was also a role that carried a lot of pressure and required an incredible attention to detail, from himself and the rest of the team.

Revealing what it was like to work with Gordon Ramsay, Stuart said: "I was petrified every day. I used to throw up before service because I was so anxious, not so much about impressing him but just not making a mess of it. I didn't want to be a failure. I didn't want to be someone that couldn't hack that life."

Stuart added: “From the rare touches that you get to see that Gordon does, you get to see that magic that he has, and what a magnificent chef he is and what a special person he is to be around.”


Catalogued Ideas and Random Thoughts features the recipes of Stuart Ralston from his Aizle and Noto restaurants, with beautiful photographs by Clair Irwin and eloquently written narratives from Stuart.

From a Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Waffles, and Honey Butter in the New York chapter to a signature Cured Trout Ponzu, Cucumber and Kohlrabi in Noto. The pages traverse Stuart’s career to date.

There’s also a unique Rhubarb and Custard from the Aizle section and in the casual chapter a simply delicious Tomato Salad he loves to prepare at home.

Giving readers a taste of what they can expect from the book, whilst revealing one of his favourite parts of the book, Stuart said: “The link between some of the stories and seeing some of the actual dishes on the pages, I think that’s a really nice place to be because you get an understanding of why that’s in the book and where it came from.”

He added: “There’s dishes there that did from the original Aizle when we first opened, which I loved going back and cooking. I think if you can look back into someone’s past and see and understand things, it stars to become more special. It’s not just pages on a book, it’s become part of the story.”

Stuart Ralston: Catalogued Ideas and Random Thoughts – a Cookbook will be available nationwide in bookshops and online at £35 by Kitchen Press.

Images Credit: Clair Irwin (@clairirwin_photography).

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th August 2023

"I didn't want to be someone that couldn't hack that life"