Lifting the Lid: Calum Ralston, Superico Restaurant, Edinburgh

Superico Restaurant on Edinburgh’s Hanover Street introduced a new menu this year, inspired by some of the most exciting food destinations, styles and trends around the world, including Japan, Latin America and France. Created by head chef Calum Ralston, the menu style is also said to reflect the level of design and creativity across both Superico Restaurant and, a few doors along, Superico Bar & Lounge.

How long have you been in the industry and how did you start?
I have over 15 years’ experience in Edinburgh’s hospitality industry, including training under both my brothers at well-known Edinburgh restaurants, Aizle, The Chop House in Bruntsfield and White Horse Oyster and Seafood Bar on the Royal Mile. My parents and elder brothers, Scott and Stuart, are all trained chefs; and Stuart appeared on the recent series of the BBC’s Great British Menu.

What’s your career highlight so far?
I secured my first head chef role at The Chop House in Bruntsfield in 2020. It taught me a lot about being a good leader, identifying the key strengths of your team and bringing out the best in people, as well as the day-to-day running of an established, high-volume, city centre restaurant. This ultimately led to me being appointed head chef at Superico in 2022.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?
Having to cater for people around Christmas time is the most stressful part of my job. I’ve worked in high-volume, city centre venues where large groups have all kinds of individual dietary requirements and food allergies, so you need to stay focused, calm and pay attention to detail in a pressurised kitchen environment.

How would you describe your restaurant and its food?
Superico broadened its horizons by introducing a new concept restaurant and cocktail bar menu this year. The new menu takes inspiration from some of the most exciting food destinations, styles and trends around the world, including Japan, Latin America and France. The menu style also reflects the strength of interior design and creativity across both Superico venues. I’m also focused on high quality, locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients.

Describe your team
We’re a small but very close team of people, each with their own distinctive skill set, experience, passion for what we do and a sense of humour. We work in an open kitchen with open views directly into the restaurant, so diners can be entertained by our antics. We have to make sure we’re always on our best behaviour.

What’s your favourite Scottish ingredient?
Scotland is lucky to have world class fish and seafood, which I love. Scottish produce and ingredients featured on the Superico menu include oysters from Loch Fyne, seafood and fish from Welch Fishmongers at Newhaven in Edinburgh, and produce from cheesemonger IJ Mellis and meat specialist John Henderson.

Is there any food you dislike?
I generally like most foods. Coming from a family of chefs, we weren’t really allowed to be picky growing up, which has resulted in me being open to most food. Having said that, I’m not the biggest fan of blue cheese.

What’s your favourite wine?
The best wine in my opinion is any kind of Malbec. I think it’s super adaptable and varied, and also works well with a lot of dishes.

What makes a good chef?
Value your team, who are your best asset. Have a strong work ethic, get your sleeves rolled up and take every opportunity to widen your experience in the catering and hospitality industry. Stay focussed, calm and pay attention to detail in a pressurised kitchen environment.

What makes you laugh in the kitchen?
In the kitchen, me and the team like to listen to a mix of bubblegum pop and hip hop to add some extra energy and fun to our shifts, including Abba, Madonna, Britney Spears and Lady Gaga.

Who do you admire in the industry and why?
My mum is my biggest inspiration. She’s retired now, but she worked as a chef and cook for over 40 years in a wide variety of roles. She taught me everything I know about having a strong work ethic and taking every opportunity to widen your experience in the industry. She’s also a big believer in making time to prepare wholesome, home-cooked food and sitting around the table as a family. This is something that has strongly influenced my style and enjoyment of food.

How do you relax outside of work?
My first dream job was to be a footballer, but as I got into my early teens I started to explore my creativity and wanted to be a screen writer. I studied English Literature at Edinburgh’s Napier University and still love to read and write, but cooking is where my creative flair found its natural outlet. I’ve recently been reading Paul Merton’s autobiography, Only When I Laugh. He talks about overcoming personal addiction, mental health issues, and his regret for not having got more out of his career. Addiction and mental health in the hospitality and catering industry are more openly discussed now, so his personal journey reflects the struggles many people face within my industry. The positive takeaway from all this is about setting personal goals and giving more priority to your wellbeing and happiness.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten and where was it?
The best meal I’ve ever eaten was at Takao Takano in Lyon, France. It’s an incredible French/Japanese fusion restaurant with two Michelin Stars. I had fresh goat’s cheese there for the first time in my life. It was incredible.

Who would you invite for your ideal meal and where would you go?
Eating with my closest family and friends is my favourite thing to do. My favourite foodie destination has to be Lyon in France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. I visited Lyon for the first time with my brothers in 2019. The quality and variety of food and drink there blew me away. Lyon has more restaurants per capita than any other city in France and has 15 Michelin Star restaurants. It’s also famous for its open food markets, so it’s definitely my foodie hot spot.