Why this US chef relocated his restaurant from San Francisco to Edinburgh

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Credit: Murray Orr
Credit: Murray Orr

Related tags Avery Chef Edinburgh Fine dining Restaurant Rodney Wages Michelin

Former The French Laundry chef Rodney Wages has swapped the San Francisco sun for the more changeable surrounds of Scotland, relaunching his Michelin-starred Avery restaurant in the city’s Stockbridge area.

That’s quite a big move. What propelled you to relocate the restaurant?
We were struggling to make Avery work in San Francisco. We opened in 2018 and when we started we never had a problem keeping the restaurant full, but after Covid that all changed. The city shifted and was having trouble with dining at the level we were pushing for. A lot of the clientele left the city as a result of the pandemic and we lost about half of our regulars when we reopened. The crowd is definitely younger now and they’re not interested in meals that last more than two hours. So, we thought it was time to move on. Originally, we thought about relocating to another in the US like Washington or Portland, but then we began looking at the UK [Wages’ wife is from England]. We had visited Edinburgh on a family holiday and loved it there, and eventually decided that’s where we wanted to be.

What was the reaction when you announced your plans to leave San Francisco?
The day we announced we were closing Avery we booked about 300 reservations, which was crazy. It was definitely bittersweet to close it. Moving to Scotland was a huge leap of faith, but then closing San Francisco was a smart business decision.

You describe Avery Edinburgh as ‘an evolution’ of the original restaurant. What does that mean?
The evolution comes from how we’re making use of Edinburgh’s larder. In San Francisco we could always get the fresh ingredients we wanted all year around, which often took the planning out of the menu. But with this more seasonal approach we have to have more structure and be more reactive creatively to the ingredients we’re sent. I’m getting the chance to work with ingredients I’ve never had access to before, especially now as we go into the summer. We’re using wild greens like coriander grass or sea aster, which I’ve never used before. I don’t think diners in California would like them as they often prefer their greens to be daintier. There’s so much great stuff in the wild that has so much character and flavour, and finding those new ingredients and incorporating them into my style of cooking is a big part of what we’re working on right now.


What’s on the menu?
We’ve tried to keep our palate as broad as possible. It’s a tasting menu. We’re using lots of amazing seafood like langoustines and razor clams, and great proteins like venison. Dishes include a reimagining of a classic pecan pie with toasted pecans, honeycomb, cognac and Loch Arthur cheddar; and I’m also working on a haggis dish made with wood pigeon. We do have one signature, which is our tortellini in brood, which sees handmade tortellini filled with a broth of cultured butter and mushrooms, served in a broth infused with roasted garlic, burnt onion butter and chives.

You earnt a Michelin star at Avery in San Francisco. Are you hoping to replicate that in Edinburgh?
We’re trying to recreate the feeling and experience of Avery as it was in San Francisco. And as a team we’re focused on ensuring we maintain a consistent dining experience that’s relaxed and elegant. So in Michelin eyes we hope that we’ll get a score, but you never know what the inspectors are looking for.


You began your career working with Thomas Keller at The French Laundry. How did that experience influence you as a chef?
It was super impactful. I still remember walking into that kitchen for the first time. I was 18 years old and accustomed to working in kitchens where people would wear dirty aprons and bandanas on their head. Then I went into The French Laundry where everyone is clean cut and immaculate. It was a professional space that demanded excellence, and everyone around you would push you to be better. You were surrounded by talented people, and it was a chance to learn and hone your skills. I was there for four years, and I call it my master’s degree. During that time the restaurant got its third Michelin star and topped The World’s 50 Best list, and that experience gave me the ambition to keep focusing on fine dining – not just creating food, but an experience. It really solidified my identity as a chef.

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