After becoming head chef at Stuart Ralston’s Aizle restaurant in Edinburgh’s Kimpton Charlotte Square hotel in the summer of 2022, we caught up with talented young chef Lewis Vimpany to find out where it all started and his plans for the future.

Tell us about your current role and the menu at Aizle 

As of right now I’m head chef at Aizle restaurant in Edinburgh. So, that entails the day-to-day running of the kitchen, menu development, team training and some of the cost management. I’d describe the food as natural with some classic interpretations and techniques thrown in. We take influence from all over the world, so a lot of Japanese techniques and flavours for instance, but used alongside the best Scottish produce we can get our hands on. There are no set guidelines as such or rules, so we’re free to do whatever we like and what works best for us and our guests. 

When and how did your passion for food and cooking begin?

I’ve always liked cooking and I used to bake and cook a lot when I was younger, but I’d say my passion really began when I went to college. I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do for my career, but when I went there I was learning new things every day and getting taught by some fantastic lecturers who just made everything fun and exciting.

What were the key steps in your development and career?  

Working at Number One at The Balmoral under Billy Boyter and Brian Grigor. Again, both unbelievably talented chefs, I soaked up what they did like a sponge. I learned so much there, straight out of college into a 1-star kitchen running the hot larder, before I rotated my way around the kitchen. 

Secondly, I also developed greatly at Restaurant Andrew Fairlie. The kitchen was run like the military and the standard was so high, not only in the food but in every aspect of the way you worked. It was also the first kitchen where I learned the business side to running a restaurant, with the food costs, GP, wages etc. This is a fantastic thing as you’re generally not taught this until you’re in more of a senior role or until you open your own place. But it’s great to get a little understanding of how to run a successful business and from one of the best in the industry.  

Did you have any mentors?

I don’t really have mentors as such, just great chefs I’ve worked with. But I’d say as of right now, Stuart Ralston, my boss and chef. Not only is he a fantastic chef, but he’s also an even better businessman. He’s an open book, so I can go to him with ideas about the restaurant or kitchen or even personal issues and he’s always supportive. He’s always giving me great advice. We have a similar background and are very much on the same page, so it works easy for us.  

Describe your cooking style?

I’d say my cooking style is a bit more natural. We use a lot of foraged produce and preserves in the kitchen and I’m very inspired by what’s around me. 

How do you create new dishes? What is the process?

Firstly, I look at seasonality, what is around, how can we elevate it, make it exciting. I like to visualise the dish first and go from there. I’ll work on figuring out the main component first and then see what eats well with it, what’s new, what kinds of techniques can improve it and then take it from there.

What cuisines, flavours or techniques are you loving right now?

Scandinavian cuisine right now for sure. Very light cooking, full of flavour and clean. Not too much protein on the plate which I like. Think that’s the right direction food should be heading towards. 

Who inspires you in the industry? Any chefs you look up to/follow?

Way too many to name! So, I’ll give you three. I think what Rafael Cagali is doing at Da Terra in London is phenomenal. Best meal I’ve had in a long time, flawless start to finish. Also, Tristan Farmer At Zen in Singapore. A fellow Scot and what he’s achieved there and the food they cook is unbelievable, so new and inspiring. Definitely on my list to go. Lastly, would have to be Lorna McNee. I worked with her at Restaurant Andrew Fairlie and what she’s achieved in the few years she’s been head chef at Cail Bruichis is amazing. I’ve never met anyone who works as hard as her and her food is just simply delicious. The only way it should be. 

What are your next goals and targets on a work level?

Simply to push Aizle as far as I can. Make the food something I can be truly proud of. Something that excites people towards coming for a meal, and somewhere we can be held in the same regard as some of the restaurants I look up to. 

What would you say to a 16-year-old starting out in a kitchen?

Be 100% sure it’s what you want to do. There are a lot of sacrifices you have to make and it’s not an easy ride, but if you stick it out and put your all into it, you’ll go far. You can literally go anywhere in the world. 

Lewis’ Tips Vital for Success in the Kitchen

Punctuality, attitude and passion. I believe if you have those three attributes you will do well, anything else can be taught.