He took the plunge into the perilous boiling waters of opening a restaurant from scratch.
And just a year later, Scott Smith has received the accolade of the best restaurant in the Capital at the annual Edinburgh Restaurant Awards.
In 2018, Scott and his wife Laura left Norn in Leith to start afresh, launching Fhior on Broughton Street a few months later.
Receiving plaudits from customers and critics, the fresh, modern European-style restaurant has commanded the same loyal following as the slick Norn operation but now it is all down to Scott and Laura and their dedicated team.
Not content with scooping the top award, Fhior’s Stuart Skea also scored number one in a new category, taking home the silverware for sommelier of the year.
Stuart, who used to work with Scott and Laura at Norn, works closely with the chefs to match the 55-strong wine list to the fresh, natural, seasonal flavours on the menu.
Stuart has worked at a number of restaurants in the east of Scotland since a trip to Bordeaux convinced him to try a career in wine and his first job was at Malmaison in Edinburgh 11 years ago.
An advocate for foraged foods, chef Paul Wedgwood has been crowned chef of the year. Honoured for his passion, ambition, dedication and consistently exquisitely elegant fare, Paul co-owns “Wedgwood the Restaurant” with his wife Lisa.
The couple opened the restaurant on the Royal Mile in 2007 and have built up a reputation as one of the most prominent eateries in Edinburgh.
“It’s an honour to be named chef of the year at the Edinburgh Restaurant Awards,” Paul said. “Edinburgh is such a fantastic city for food and drink, and it’s the high calibre of the people in our industry that make it so.
“I feel very lucky to work with the people I do, from my kitchen team and front of house staff, to my brilliant local suppliers.
“Edinburgh and Scotland as a whole deserves to be recognised for its food, and I look forward to continuing championing in everything I do.”
The restaurant was also awarded the top spot in the best value for money category.
Paul added: “Edinburgh is a fantastic city for food and drink, filled with some of the best customers we could ever ask for, and Lisa and I are so thankful for their support through the years.
“We have an incredible team of people who have helped us build our restaurant for over a decade; our chefs in the kitchen, our front-of-house team and our suppliers who we have such brilliant relationships with; we couldn’t do it without them and can’t thank them enough.”
The lively event, which saw 150 people celebrate in the Principle on George Street, also gave a nod to customer service, a second new award for 2019, with Pizzeria 1926 on Dalry Road taking the lead.
The Neopolitan-style pizzeria was opened two years ago by Naples-born chef Rosario Sartore, also of Locanda de Gusti across the road, Nero a Mata on Slateford Road and Italian deli Fiocchi Di Neve.
It delivers with prime Italian ingredients the true Neapolitan taste of Italy – where pizza was, and still is, eaten every day as an inexpensive and filling meal.
Lauded by critics, the friendly service mixes with quality to deliver a punch of pizza perfection.
Coupling a cosy atmosphere with quality cuisine, the Bridge Inn at Ratho added to their trophy cabinet after receiving the award for “best pub grub”.
“We’re delighted to have the Bridge Inn at Ratho recognised in this way,” said Rachel Bucknall, who with her husband Graham also own the Ship Inn in Elie. “When we took over the inn, we set out to develop a really good pub with great drinks, great atmosphere, outstanding service and of course, delicious food.
“We’ve particularly focused on seasonal ingredients whether that’s from our own garden or from carefully selected local producers and this has really supported the quality of our dishes.
“This award is testament to the whole team’s success in this and, while many pubs across Scotland have struggled in the last few years, the Bridge Inn really has gone from strength to strength.”
The strength and vivacity of the Edinburgh restaurant scene has witnessed a slate of new openings over 2018 and 2019. And crowned the best newcomer is neighbourhood bistro Tthe Little Chartroom.
Chef Roberta Hall-McCarron said: “We’re so delighted to win the newcomer award. It’s been a great start for the Little Chart-room and we’re just so happy that people seem to like what we’re doing!”
Edinburgh Evening News editor Euan McGrory said: “The Edinburgh restaurant scene is one of our great success stories and they’re not just a joyful indulgence for those of us lucky enough to live in Edinburgh and the Lothians but they’re increasingly important to the city’s economy.
“Many visitors who come to the city these days come just as much for the food and drink as for the castles and cobbles.”