Stocks rise again
In May, young chef James Stocks resigned from his eponymous restaurant in a prestigious Scottish country house hotel. Five months on, he’s opening his own restaurant in Edinburgh. Words: Donald Reid
Just under a year ago, 24-year-old James Stocks emerged from nowhere to become a serious player in Scotland’s fine-dining scene with the establishment of a signature restaurant at Balbirnie House Hotel in Fife. Few had heard of him, but his CV boasted several well-known names: Ramsay, Roux, Del Burgo, and, most prominently, fellow Yorkshireman and family friend Marco Pierre White. For a few months his meteoric rise was peppered with hot reviews, impressive reports, award nominations and commendations.
This week he opens his own restaurant in Edinburgh, Wild Sorrel. Stocks told The List he has high hopes for his new venture:
‘Me and the kitchen team are very ambitious,’ he states. ‘We want to achieve great things. This is where I want to get the [Michelin] star, this is where I want to get the rosettes, achieve what I want to achieve.’
Despite his experience at Balbirnie, he anticipates a continuity with what he started there less than a year ago.
‘I wanted to stay in Scotland to prove wrong the people who were selling stories on me, to let the food do the talking. I don’t want to sound bitter, but part of me still is, because I know what they put me through. Ninety per cent of it wasn’t true.’
Wild Sorrel is located in the ground and basement of a relatively modern building just off Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Having seen a turnover of ventures in the last couple of years it’s not necessarily a glamorous spot, but neither does it seem unsuited to what Stocks hopes to create.
‘It’s modern French with Scottish ingredients. Really modern. Probably the most modern food in Scotland. I’d say that, but no one in Scotland does the food that we do.’
Scotland has some well-known and well-decorated chefs, but hitherto the real cult of the celebrity chef, and the flashing glint of raw, aggressive ambition, hadn’t been much in evidence. Stocks, with his youth, intricate food, readiness to shoot from the lip, and opinionated confidence, has thrown a rock into Scotland’s relatively placid pool of haute cuisine.
‘What has happened has just made me stronger. Does it make me dangerous? I was always a threat to the other chefs in Scotland, the big boys, the guys who have spent ten years carving out a reputation. Here I am 25 years old, getting two-three pages in national papers, getting book deals and TV programmes. I won a lot of awards in a short period of time, which, to be fair, was probably my saving grace. If I hadn’t won any awards, and I left my job in the way I left it, people would be questioning if I was any good.’
Wild Sorrel Restaurant by James Stocks, 21 Old Fishmarket Close, Edinburgh, 0131 226 5959, www.wildsorrelrestaurant.com
Wild Sorrel closed in Dec 2008. See our article