Stuart Ralston comes home to open Aizle

The Staff Canteen

Aizle opened in April 2014 and is owned and run by our ex-blogger Stuart Ralston and his wife Krystal, who have returned to Scotland after his culinary ventures in restaurants around the world.

Today the Staff Canteen spoke to him about this new venture since blogging for us.

Stuart Ralston
Stuart Ralston

Stuart has worked in some of the world’s top culinary locations. He spent six years working in New York and worked as head chef at the luxurious ‘Sandy Lane’ resort in Barbados. This year he decided to return to his native Scotland and open Aizle with his wife Krystal. “We’d obviously been living abroad for a long time but we’d been dying to come back to Edinburgh to open a restaurant,” he said. “We always said we were going to open in Edinburgh. Scotland’s the only place I’ve not felt successful. I’ve never done anything in my own country because I left pretty young so I wanted to come back and have a crack at it.”

Aizle is a restaurant that reflects Stuart’s distinctly international culinary education. The food is rustic in appeal and Stuart strives to combine modern technique with locally sourced ingredients. The restaurant serves five courses consisting of an appetizer, a vegetable led starter, a fish course, a meat course and then desert. “It’s a tasting-menu restaurant that’s only open for dinner. We write the ingredients that we’re buying in that week and make a tasting-menu from it.” He told us, “It’s a very organic style, we use a lot of wild herbs, foraged ingredients and mainly local produce from around Edinburgh.”

Stuart has been travelling for most of his career. He left Scotland at just 21 to try his trade in the Big Apple. He spoke fondly of his time in New York: “I spent nearly six years in New York. It changed everything. I’ve got a totally different style now to what everyone else is doing, at least in Edinburgh.” He added, “The beautiful thing about New York is that it’s such a big melting pot. There’re tons of influences from Chinatown to Queens or Brooklyn, It’s very diverse and it opened up a whole new scope of things for me when I first moved there.”

Stuart was head chef of L’Acajou at the highly luxurious ‘Sandy Lane’ hotel in Barbados. Sandy Lane is one of the ‘leading hotels of the world’ and boasts the much-coveted AAA 5 Diamond Award. “Sandy Lane is a monster of a place. Being the head chef there takes a lot of experience to survive.” He told us, “It’s a bit more about keeping a level head and understanding business, economics and how to get the best out of people.”

Stuart clearly enjoyed his time in Barbados. He was able to live in a beautiful part of the world and spend more time with his wife Krystal. The job also presented extra challenges: “It’s a volcanic island so it doesn’t grow anything, you have to import it all.”

He said, “It was an interesting experience. With the type of clientele at Sandy Lane, the job was more than just running a restaurant, there was a lot of events.”

Travelling has shaped the man he is today but Stuart has never forgotten his Scottish roots. He has always aspired to be head chef of a top Edinburgh restaurant and is now using his experience and hard-earned money to fulfil his ambitions.

“We went to Barbados because we wanted to put ourselves in a position where we could save for Aizle and open our own restaurant.” He said, “I’ve tried to come back to Edinburgh multiple times but there’s just never been a job for me here. Once I’d got past a certain level, there was never going to be one. Very seldom do the top jobs come up here and most of them are chef-ran anyway so the chances of getting a head-chef role in these places are limited.”

Aizle is a Scottish neo-bistro inspired by kitchens around the world. Stuart and Krystal have brought their concept to Edinburgh via London, New York and Barbados. “What we’re doing is inspired by our travels. Even the concept of not having a menu is something inspired by travelling to Paris and living in New York. I just thought it was a really cool thing.”

He said, “There’s definitely an international stamp on what we do.” Stuart is immensely excited at working in Scotland’s capital, particularly as head chef of his own restaurant.

“There’s a lot going on in Edinburgh. It’s changed a lot since I was last here. I think there’re other places doing internationally inspired concepts as well.”

He said, “It’s exciting to be part of a hugely competitive market and it’s also an exciting place to be.”

Stuart has spent the best-part of the last ten years working in some of the world’s top kitchens. He even wrote blogs of his experiences as a chef abroad for The Staff Canteen. He is now living the dream at Aizle after returning to his native Edinburgh. We wish him all the best.

By Tom Evans

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Editor 15th October 2014

Stuart Ralston comes home to open Aizle