Norn Chef – Scott Smith talks about restaurant style, his inspiration and the importance of local, traceable produce

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th December 2016

Scott Smith is a former protégé of Michelin-starred chef, Geoffrey Smeddle and is now the chef patron of the fine dining restaurant, Norn in Edinburgh.

The Staff Canteen caught up with the Scottish chef to discuss his new concept restaurant, the importance of traceability in Scotch Beef PGI, Scotch Lamb PGI and Specially Selected Pork and why the Scottish larder is the envy of the world.

Scott Smith's Norn
Scott Smith's Norn

Scott’s passion for food came at an early age, his mum would often grow fruit and vegetables in their back garden and as a family they would holiday in the South of France. It was during these family trips that Scott’s true love for gastronomy truly began to blossom, “I loved the markets we would visit while there and how seriously the French took their food. This all certainly influenced my love of food.” As he got older Scott began to find inspiration in various forms, “I find visuals particularly inspiring, just a picture or the way an ingredient looks can help to create ideas, so being outdoors is a great way to start creating,” he explained.

Kicking off his career as a pot wash, it wasn’t long before Scott bagged his first commis job working for a local restaurant. After working his way to become sous chef, Scott soon left to work for Michelin-starred chef, Geoffrey Smeddle at The Peat Inn. After leaving the hustle bustle of a Michelin starred kitchen, Scott decided to open a new restaurant with award winning chef, Steve Collinson before leaving that behind to pursue a career as a food development manager . Leaving this role, Scott decided to venture out on his own setting up his first restaurant, Norn eight months ago.

>>> Read: Scott Smith, Chef Patron, Norn

“The business is going better than we could have imagined. For being a new restaurant in a relatively quiet part of town, with no previous reputation and with so many great restaurants in the city, we have really been surprised at people’s response and support.”

Scott Smith
Scott Smith

Setting up his first restaurant under a year ago hasn’t come without its challenges as Scott explains, “There is an entirely different side to things when running a business as well as a kitchen which requires a completely new skill set. I was aware this would be the case and in the past few years up to opening I took jobs much more focused outside of the kitchen and more on the business/management side, but it still doesn’t fully prepare you for the challenges you will face. This was a very steep learning curve.”

Both the interior and exterior of the restaurant have been striped back to reveal a minimalist look so the true focal point remains on the simple yet creative dishes highlighting the best ingredients Scotland has on offer.

Scott said: “Our food style is Modern Scottish, or at least our version of it. All the dishes are very ingredient lead. We try to keep them quite simple in their execution but with a lot of thought process in their planning.” He continued, “We also have a very strong focus on the produce being from Scotland and from smaller, sustainable producers.”

Utilising the Scottish larder and sourcing local produce is of a high priority for Scott who always endeavours to use local ingredients where possible, “Fresh berries in season from just across in Perthshire are always going to taste better and have more nutrients than importing them from the other side of the world. I think it is crazy that we import so much produce from thousands of miles away when we have the same produce, in better condition a few miles away.” He continued, “Our larder is the envy of the world. The Scottish food export market is huge, and for a very good reason. It is not cheap. Top restaurants in Europe will buy huge amounts of our incredible seafood and beef from Scotland for a top price because they know and understand the quality of it. We are so lucky because we have this on our doorstep.”

Scott Smith's Norn
Scott Smith's Norn

The same goes for traceability in Scotch Beef PGI, Scotch Lamb PGI and Specially Selected Pork which is why Scott is a member of the Scotch Beef Club. Scott explains, “When you are sourcing your beef, lamb and pork, it is especially important to know where that has come from. Even more so if you are telling your guests that you are acting ethically and sustainably. You want to know where and how that animal has been raised. If the animal is healthy, then the end product will undoubtedly be of a better quality and tastier as a result.”

Sustainability is also high on the agenda for Scott and Norn which is why the restaurant only offers a fixed menu as opposed to an ever changing one like so many of his peers .

He said: “If you offer an a la c arte, and a tasting, and potentially another set menu, then there is no way of knowing what you will be selling which inevitably will result is high food wastage. Too many restaurants are guilty of producing large amounts of wastage, yet as the public we tend to just point the finger at the large supermarkets.”

Eight months in and Norn is going from strength-to-strength but what does the future hold? Scott is keen to see the restaurant grow and already has some big plans further down the line.

He said: “We are already building a fantastic and loyal customer base, some of whom have been in 14 times since we opened which is incredible. Having people come in so regular really help us to drive our menus forward so they can have a different experience each time.”

He continued: “We are looking to begin a good sized kitchen garden on the outskirts of the city also to help us plug the gaps between our suppliers. We are also looking at a few options for something else within the city to open another place using our same ethic but a different concept entirely.”

By Michael Parker

@canteenparker

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th December 2016

Norn Chef – Scott Smith talks about restaurant style, his inspiration and the importance of local, traceable produce