Martin Wishart had a modest upbringing in the Blackhall area of Edinburgh. Growing up his mother did most of the cooking – plenty of hearty soups and casseroles – and, while he enjoyed cooking himself from an early age, becoming a chef was not an ambition that had really occurred to him. Leaving school at 15, he toyed with the idea of becoming a carpenter but, fortunately, fate intervened and the young boy was first offered a job as a kitchen apprentice at a popular hotel in Edinburgh.
Martin Wishart accepted the position and spent the next five years of his life working in kitchens across Scotland. At the age of 20 he left his job at Cameron House in Loch Lomond and set off to France, turning up on the doorstep of renowned chef Marc Meneau’s restaurant in Burgundy. Meneau took a chance on the young chef, and Martin Wishart stayed a number of weeks, flourishing in the intense environment of a Michelin-starred kitchen.
Throughout his career Martin Wishart has remained focused on his own future as a chef. As he told the Herald, “I’ve always had a very firm and specific idea of where and who I wanted to work for.” Clearly the chef is of discerning taste, for his early mentors include such culinary heavyweights as Albert Roux, Marco Pierre White, Charlie Trotter, Michel Roux and John Burton Race.
Owning a restaurant of his own was always his dream, however, and in 1999 he opened Restaurant Martin Wishart in Leith, Edinburgh. Despite somewhat modest beginnings – the chef recalls “wobbly chairs” and concrete floors during its shoestring early days – the restaurant quickly gained a loyal following. Restaurant Martin Wishart was awarded a Michelin star in 2001 and has retained it ever since.
He also holds a Michelin star for his second venture, Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond, where diners can enjoy elegant cuisine against the dramatic backdrop of the loch and Ben Lomond. Aside from fine dining he also runs the Honours, a more casual, brasserie-style restaurant which opened in Edinburgh in 2011. A sister restaurant in Glasgow followed in 2014, with his food received just as enthusiastically on that side of the country as in his home city of Edinburgh.