Wedgwood the Restaurant, on Edinburgh’s iconic Royal Mile, is the brainchild of chef Paul Wedgwood, who opened the award-winning eatery in 2007. He tells Gayle Ritchie his secret inspirations…
Working as a pot washer in a hotel as a teenager, Paul Wedgood couldn’t quite believe his luck when the head chef snuck him a half pint of lager.
“It was Christmas time and I’d been slaving away quite hard, so it was brilliant when I was handed this alcoholic drink!” he laughs.
“I think, from that age – 13 years old – I was sold to a career in the kitchen. I’ve always loved the camaraderie in the kitchen, with everyone working together for the same goal.”
Several decades on and Paul runs one of Edinburgh’s most prestigious eateries – Wedgwood the Restaurant on the Royal Mile.
His love of food and creating magic in the kitchen was sparked at a young age, by his father.
“He was always cooking in the kitchen as I was growing up,” recalls Paul.
“He had a very academic career but loved using spices in the kitchen and was never one to follow the recipes.
“I knew early on that I didn’t want to become an academic and that my career lay within hospitality.”
Training at hospitality college, Paul then secured a placement at the Miller Howe, a prestigious hotel in the Lake District.
Through the years, he’s found himself working in many different environments, from theme parks to pubs, to busy bistros and high end restaurants.
A passionate and ambitious chef, his long term goal was always open a fine dining restaurant in which he would combine his experiences to be able to offer fine dining in informal surroundings with excellent service.
In 1999, Paul opened the Georgian House bar in Kendal which was hugely successful.
Six years later, during a visit with his wife Lisa to see his parents in Edinburgh, he found the perfect venue for Wedgwood the Restaurant.
Many of his recipes are inspired by travelling to exotic locations, as he explains: “I’ve been lucky enough in my career at Wedgwood to be able to leave my stove and work for short periods in Peru, Australia, Italy and most recently doing a ‘pop up’ in London for Burns Night.
“I have a passion for travelling and whenever I eat anywhere abroad I will always try their local delicacies.”
Sourcing local produce is close to Paul’s heart and he enjoys foraging for his own ingredients.
During the warmer months, he hosts foraging experiences, when guests can join him finding ingredients in the local area.
Wedgwood’s spring menu features some fantastic Scottish produce – nettles, rowan berries, wild leek and garlic.
And in terms of specialities, Paul says he loves challenging preconceived ideas of dishes by serving savoury versions of desserts and vice versa.
“Our guests love trying anything new or something slightly out of the ordinary,” he says.
“Our lobster thermidor crème brulee, bloody Mary sorbet and Parmesan shortbread are great sellers!
“We’ve tried to create a nurturing family run-restaurant at Wedgwood where every member of staff is equally important, everyone has a voice and is encouraged to use it and input their ideas in how we should push the business to greater things.
“The team is very close and I think that comes through to our guests. It creates a relaxing atmosphere where you feel you can just sit and enjoy your evening.”
Any words of wisdom for young chefs?
“Hang in there!” says Paul.
“It’s such a tough industry when you’re starting at the bottom, but learn from all those around you, ask questions, keep reading and being inspired.
“I still learn from my younger chefs even today. They have all been taught a slightly different way or they have a different way of preparing a dish. It’s always good to have your eyes open.”
It’s also worth bearing in mind that to be a success in such a high pressure industry, you need to put in the hours…
When Paul first started, he was working a minimum of 18 hours a day, seven days a week, although he recoils at the prospect of doing such shifts these days.
“I don’t think I could work 18 hours a day any more! At the beginning, when it was a new business, we wanted to do everything within our power to make it work.
“I would be in first thing to take deliveries, start prepping, work lunch service then dinner service, then we’d send the staff home and the clean-up would begin.Then it would start all over the next day!
“We’ve had the restaurant 10 years now and I’m very proud to say we have such a good team in place that I don’t have to work that hard any more.”