Martin Wishart opens up about his loathing of emails and a desire to work with concept developers and other restaurateurs
Martin Wishart opened his eponymous restaurant in Edinburgh’s historic Port of Leith in February 1999. Since then it has become known as one of the UK’s most acclaimed dining venues, recently awarded in November 2015 Best Restaurant in Scotland by The Sunday Times, (5th in the UK) holding one Michelin star since 2001, 4 AA rosettes and a score of 7/10 in the Good Food Guide. Martin was also voted AA Chef -Chef of the Year 2010-2011. He was also awarded an honorary degree of ‘Doctorem Honoris Causa’ for his outstanding culinary contribution to Scotland in 2011.
Now celebrating 17 years of continuing growth, the doors that opened with just four staff now play host to a kitchen, front-of-house and management team of more than 25.
But how much do we know about the man who gave Edinburgh its first Michelin star?
Here, we grill him on first jobs, career choices and business mistakes to get to know him a little better…
Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A: I had always an interest in real crafts; I love working with my hands and was never one for sitting at a desk. Of course, I also always had interest in good food. I used to sell homemade pizzas to my friends at the age of 12. I think I was always quite entrepreneurial. I used to sell door numbers and even made advertising leaflets for local businesses and distributed them on my bike aged nine. I also loved working with wood and I had considered becoming a joiner. But when I started in the kitchen, I knew this was the path I wanted to follow.
Q: What was your first job?
A: I worked for the Crest hotel as a commis chef in Blackhall.
Q: Describe what you do in your current role
A: I run four restaurants: Restaurant Martin Wishart, Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond, The Honours Edinburgh and The Honours Glasgow. I also do some consultancy.
I mainly spend my time in my restaurant in Leith, but I go regularly to the other three to have meetings with the chefs and restaurant managers. I dedicate a lot of time on the creation of my dishes and on writing my menus. I speak regularly to my suppliers.
Q: What’s been your worst business mistake?
A: My worst business mistake has not yet been I think. I can’t really think of anything I would do differently.
Q: If you could change career tomorrow, what would you do?
A: I would not change my career.
Q: What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
A: There have been many, but I felt very emotional when Edinburgh University awarded me with an honorary degree of ‘Doctorem Honoris Causa’ for an outstanding culinary contribution to Scotland in 2011.
I couldn’t believe it. The whole ceremony was amazing.
Q: What gets you out of bed in the morning?
A: My two-year-old son but, saying that, I am a real morning person. I always get up early and happy to start a new day.
Q: What are your office/business bugbears?
A: I hate emails. I receive far too many.
Q: What’s playing on your iPod/stereo right now?
A: I like a variety of music, I use Spotify and play a selection, I love listening to music when I run.
Q: With which other business would you most love to work/team up with and why?
A: I have teamed up with different businesses. I have a deal at Cameron house, and also one at The Malmaison hotel. I enjoy working with people and learning every day. I have also taken lots of challenges to cook abroad in very interesting circumstances: such as the Formula 1 in Singapore and cooking in the Ajax stadium in Amsterdam.
I think I would love to team up with concept developers. I would like to think that my experience could benefit anyone opening or running a restaurant. I have now over 30 years’ experience in the catering industry.
I would like to think that I could guide people on kitchen design, menu development, team leading and business strategies.
But I must admit what has given me the most satisfaction has been to develop a concept myself with my own team.
Wishart directs his team with one member of staff for every two guests, and holds true to the original mission to bring the very best traditional and modern French cuisine to Edinburgh, using the finest and freshest local Scottish ingredients. He has developed a great relationship with his suppliers and he constantly research new ideas and ingredients.
He gave Edinburgh its first Michelin Star in 2001 and this has been confirmed every year since.
Martin is an entrepreneur with a passion for cooking. He keeps on top of his profession by forming bonds with other internationally acclaimed restaurants. His brilliant career has taken him around the world to Australia, the USA, Singapore, Katar and across Europe. He now also enjoys doing consultancy work on developing new concepts and also improving on current ones.
Wishart continues to strive for professional success at Restaurant Martin Wishart. His second Michelin star Restaurant Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond at Cameron House Hotel in November 2008, The Honours: a contemporary and exciting brasserie in the heart of Edinburgh city centre opened July 2011 and his latest addition The Honours in Glasgow within the Malmaison hotel opened in November 2014.
Long term, Wishart hopes to strengthen Scotland’s reputation for good food and encourage others with his enthusiasm for cooking.