HE has cooked for the stars, worked alongside world-famous chefs and there’s a three-month waiting list for his Edinburgh restaurant.
But now Stuart Ralston, owner and chef at Aizle in St Leonard’s Street, has decided to readjust his work-life balance – and that of his staff – and announced the award-winning eatery will open only four days a week instead of five.
He said with a toddler son he now wanted to have Sundays free to spend as family time.
And for the ten staff, he said the move to a four-day week – without any pay cut – was a reward for their hard work in making the restaurant a success.
He said: “For the past three-and-a-half years our staff have all worked extremely hard to make Aizle the success it is, and in line with my own desire to create a healthy lifestyle, I want to create an environment for my staff that’s equally healthy.
“There’s a tendency to overwork in this industry, the days are long and can be very physically demanding, so it’s important we all have a chance to enjoy life away from the workplace.”
Stuart, 34, worked with Gordon Ramsay in America, was head-hunted by an exclusive New York club and later became chef de cuisine at a luxury resort in Barbados.
He has cooked for stars and VIPs including Sarah Jessica Parker, Stella McCartney, Renée Zellweger, Bryan Adams and Billy Joel among others.
He came to Edinburgh and launched Aizle in 2014 along with his wife Krystal Goff. The 36-seater restaurant serves a set £55-a-head five-course menu, which changes all the time according to what is local and in season.
Last year it was included in TripAdvisor’s Top 10 Best Fine Dining Restaurants in the UK and the top three restaurants in Scotland in the Observer Food Monthly Awards 2017.
Stuart said closing on Sundays would allow him more time with Krystal and Sonny, who will be three later this year.
“Since we opened three-and-a-half years ago I’ve spend virtually zero time at home – and it will be better for the staff too.
“We start at 8.30am and it’s often midnight or 12.30am before we finish. It’s a long day and by Sunday we’re all pretty depleted. But that’s what it takes to run the restaurant.”
It is a life Stuart has long been familiar with. “All my family are chefs – my father, my mother and my brother – so I grew up in a world where family time was sacrificed for the business. I’ve decided I don’t want to do that any more.”
He said the staff were delighted when he told them of the move to four-day opening.
“They were super-happy – not because they don’t want to be here, they’re all super-dedicated. But I see it as a reward for sticking around.
“It’s difficult for a small business but they are all young people and put in so much work to make the restaurant what it is.
“I’ve been cooking for 20 years and it’s often 15-18 hours a day. I’m telling them now it’s important to look after themselves from a health point of view.”
And he hopes the new opening times will not disappoint diners. “Customers should want to know that the people serving their meal, cooking it and cleaning up afterwards are being well looked after.”