Paul Wedgwood, co-owner and head chef, Wedgwood the Restaurant

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 8th December 2015
Paul Wedgwood co-owns Wedgwood the Restaurant in Edinburgh with his wife, Lisa and his ambition was always to open a fine dining restaurant where he could create innovative dishes inspired by his globe-trotting travels. He began his career working for a number of establishments including pubs and Michelin-starred restaurants before opening his first eatery in Kendal in 1999, the Georgian House Bar, and cites celebrity chef, John Tovey as one of his key inspirations. Paul and Lisa found the perfect venue for Wedgwood the Restaurant and in 10 years it has become one of Edinburgh's most well-known establishments on the restaurant scene. The Staff Canteen spoke to Paul about being a wild chef, featuring in the Times 100 list for the first time this year and not following the rules when it comes to creating dishes. 004-Wedgewood-Commercial-IMG_3318 low resForaged ingredients are mentioned on your menu, it’s a very popular trend so how do you make sure those ingredients are not just a gimmick? I’ve been using foraged ingredients throughout my entire career. I was one of those chefs that others thought was really weird for putting crispy nettles on things. It all stemmed from when I was in the Scouts as a kid; we used to go on adventure and survival weekends where we would forage food for substance and I actually enjoyed the food we found and picked. I’ve always had this love for wild forest ingredients so the fact that it is now so popular is incredible. I never thought it would ever be as fashionable as it is today. Where do you source your other ingredients? Do you have a particular product you enjoy working with? I love scallops so I work closely with Guy Grieve at the Ethical Shellfish Company. Guy goes out and sources the scallops for me. He actually holds them in a tidal channel so they come out of the water, get on the ferry and they’re in my restaurant about four hours later, totally fresh; it’s absolutely unbelievable. Getting to work with people like that is really, really good. I try to source all of my ingredients locally and as ethically as possible. How do you make your dishes stand out against other restaurants? I don’t follow any rules, I’m certainly not classically trained. At college I did Hotel Management so I didn’t actually do any sort of cooking. Essentially I’m self-taught so there will be times when I put 11 flavours on a plate and critics and reviewers will say to me, ‘I don’t know how you get away with it but it all seems to works’. My scallop dish right now includes cauliflower, coconut, capers, pistachio, peanuts, pineapple, and coriander for example.Wedgwood Restaurant When I serve a dish like that I always recommend that you taste a little bit of everything on the plate at the same time and see what happens. Another signature dish in the restaurant would be the lobster thermidor crème Brulee starter, and the Isle of Mull cheddar and onion bread and butter pudding. Do you have a favourite dish or a dish that has been on the menu since you first started? I think the scallop dish is my all-time favourite dish, other than that the Mallard dish but it’s purely due to buying in-season. We serve it with a ruffled goat’s cheese dauphinoise potato, roast figs and kale, it’s a tremendous dish. Talk us through the ‘Deciding time menu’ and how popular has this been with diners? The Deciding Time menu is a selection of seasonal canapes and a glass of Champagne for £10 which diners can enjoy while deciding what to order from the menu. Our customers love this as it gives them a chance to relax and take their time over ordering their meal. You overhaul your menus four times a year in-line with the seasons, with that in mind, what is your favourite food season? It’s got to be spring when I’m getting all the new growth and wild forest bits in. I love nothing more than watching things sprout and the anticipation and excitement about what you’re going to do with it and how you’re going to create a dish using those ingredients. You co-own your restaurant with your wife Lisa, did you always want a place together? We were living in the Lake District and thought it was about time we looked for ourselves. We spent years trying to find the right place in Windermere and nothing really ignited the spark. My parents were living in Edinburgh so on a visit to them I saw the place up for sale and thought, ‘you know what, let’s go have a look.’ From the second I walked in I just fell in love with the space. Venison, its own haggis, chanterelles etc low resI know some other very good restauranteurs who also went to view it and their consensus was, ‘no I don’t like the space, the kitchen’s too small, etc.’ But for me something just went off in my head and I thought, ‘this is the place.’ But what no one really knows is that the purchase actually fell through. We were literally on the by-pass coming into Edinburgh and we got a phone call to say something had gone wrong with the lease. So it fell through for us, but we spent two years living in Edinburgh and we were very committed and we just thought, ‘let’s make the most out of Edinburgh’, it’s such a beautiful city and we fell in love with it so let’s see what else is available. Then we were away on holiday and this guy who we were friends with and who lived on the top floor of the Wedgwood building phoned us to say they had just put up a for sale sign outside, so the following day we got straight in touch with the estate agents, put an offer in and were subsequently accepted because we already had the business plan ready to go. So we got it in the end and it was worth waiting for! Have you always wanted to work in the food industry? Yes, absolutely, my first job was washing pots when I was 11 years old so I’ve been working in the industry for my entire life really. From that very first service I was in an adult environment being treated like a grown-up. The chef was really respectful of us and actually became a friend. You were featured in the Sunday Times Top 100 this year, how does that feel? It feels absolutely incredible because it’s not something that you can apply for, it’s the general public who are voting so we were absolutely astonished. Every single one of us is so proud and humble. We had a bit of a party, I took the team out to say thank you in a very special way. So was it something that you were actively working towards?Tomato terrine low res We are always striving to give our customers the perfect restaurant experience, so I am delighted that they also agree with that vision! We wanted to be a successful restaurant on the Royal Mile and our main aim was to get local people to come up to the Royal Mile. So our goal was to change that perception and get a local following, rather than just appeal to the tourist market. One day the Editor of ‘The List’ – a local magazine - popped in when we doing the refurbishment and introduced him and me jokingly said: ‘We want to be the best new restaurant in your publication’ and subsequently we won the accolade in their annual Eating and Drinking Guide! And although it felt good we thought, ‘this isn’t really what we’re about’ and then in 2010 Harden’s restaurant guide named us best new restaurant outside of London which again is voted for by the public, so that was just incredible. You have done a number of demonstrations throughout the UK and internationally, where’s been your favourite location? Barbados I suppose, I’ve been out there quite a bit and I’m the head chef of an annual Celtic festival they hold. So I go out once a year for the festival and cook in several different hotels and locations. Because I’ve been out there so many times I’ve fallen in love with the island and I’ve just bought into a small restaurant chain as well which means I am probably out there eight times a year In June I was invited to go to Florence to mark the 50th anniversary celebrations of the twinning between Edinburgh and Florence, so that was really great and I learned so much. Winter vegetable garden, seasonal vegetables, hazelnut and liquorice soil, crispy kale, tomato gel, barley and lentil pebbles  low resWhat plans do you have for Wedgwood in the future? We’re doing a complete refurbishment of the restaurant in January. We’re completely changing the look of it, for the last eight years we’ve been in control of the design but this time we have teamed up with a great restaurant designer so we can work alongside them on something a bit more daring, but still keeping the “Wedgwood” atmosphere. As I am so keen on foraging we’re going to incorporate some natural elements in there, such as some natural wood going on the wall, but I don’t want to give too much away. But we’re definitely embracing the fact that I’m a wild food chef. Does that mean the menus are going to change as well to coincide with the refurbishment? Yes, the menus will also change for the relaunch which will be on January 28, so there will be a brand new seasonal menu. I do get a lot of people asking about when I’m going to change the menu but my response is always the same, it really all depends on Mother Nature as she dictates what goes on the menu
The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 8th December 2015

Paul Wedgwood, co-owner and head chef, Wedgwood the Restaurant