Interviews

Scott Smith, Norn

We talk to the chef at Norn, an Edinburgh restaurant with a Scandinavian influence

What inspired you to become a chef?
I started working as a pot washer in a restaurant for my first job and just fell in love with watching how the kitchen operated. I already had a big obsession with food and getting involved in the buzz of a service just reaffirmed that this was what I wanted to do as a career.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I enjoy working with the best produce every day and also working with a great team. Putting all that time and effort into the food and the guest’s experience, and then getting to see the enjoyment they get out of what you have produced is a great feeling. It makes all the long hours worth it.

Name one ingredient you couldn't cook without
I love using butter. I don’t use it in excess, but just a little is a great way to add extra flavour and richness to a dish. Slightly burning butter also creates a whole new flavour that is very nutty and great to finish sauces or coat vegetables with.

What is the most unusual cooking/preparation technique you use?
We do quite a bit of self-seasoning. We dry out the trimmings of vegetables (such as asparagus) and blend it with salt and then used this flavoured salt to season the prepared vegetable. This achieves a nice little boost to the flavour of the finished product.

What is your favourite time of year for food?
Springtime for me is definitely the most exciting. When spring arrives, so much new produce comes in very quickly and also changes very quickly so it’s a great time to accelerate changes in the menus and introduce much lighter dishes again. It’s a great time creatively and also because we do foraging; it’s a very exciting time to see what is starting to come out of the ground and off the trees.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
I’m noticing a big move towards much cleaner and fresher cooking in a lot of restaurants just now. Also much less dairy is being used. I think a lot of it is probably to do with dietary needs becoming more prominent in diners, the influence coming from Scandinavia and also just a need for a change from too much heavy, classic cooking that has dominated the scene for a long time.

If you could cook for anyone (past or present) who would it be and what would you cook for them?
Probably my old tutor Jeff Purves. He was a great teacher but I remember making a total mess of the game bird class and I ruined my grouse with jus, game chips and bread sauce. I would like to show him I can finally execute that classic now.

At the end of a long day what do you like to cook?
My go-to at the end of a long shift is a simple pasta dish – usually with just good olive oil and Parmesan. It is really quick and easy and also quite filling so you don’t need to eat too much before sleep.

Do you have a guilty junk-food pleasure?
Pork scratchings. I used to eat far too many of these, which I know aren’t great for my waistline or my teeth. I’ve cut this habit right down now and just pick up a pack as a rare treat.

And finally… tell us something about yourself that will surprise your diners
We have never bought a single block of butter into the restaurant. All the butter we have used, for the bread and the cooking, has all been made in-house since day one, which is a lot of work to put into something seen as a kitchen staple.

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