Interview with Aaron Hartman

Updated: Oct 21, 2021

Taste Magazine Scotland was able to visit the owner of Season Quayside.

Located in Leith, Edinburgh’s growing quality food and drink hub, Season Quayside is the latest venture from the acclaimed Season Catering which has been a huge success in Scotland, with locally sourced and seasonal ingredients which take centre stage of every plate and mouthful.

Chef Jordan is responsible for the incredible array of dishes and ingenious use of seasonal ingredients to bring a new twist on classic dishes upholding the idea of a modern bistro to a high standard.

We had the opportunity to sample some of their dishes which were top of the range quality and absolutely dazzlingly, delicate flavours pulled together for a one-of-a-kind meal.

Taste Magazine Scotland was able to sit down with the Head Chef Jordan, the General Manager Ruggiero Bruno and the owner of this fantastic bistro, Aaron Hartman.

Tell me like a little bit about yourselves and how you got into the industry.

Aaron: My name is Aaron Hartman and I own a catering business which is called Season Catering. We do outside catering to weddings, events and we do private chef work. I have a big passion for food and I have been a chef for many years as well. This was the next progression for us with Season Catering was to open Season Quayside which ties in with our brand. We saw this opportunity, we wanted to do it well before the pandemic and then when we went into lockdown, we had time to properly plan the whole thing.

So, I actually had time to sit down and write the business plan, talk about the concept and think how the two could tie together. One of the ways they tie together is that for example we might do 60, 70 weddings a year and I have got a constant flow of clients coming through. People can come here, they can see the quality of the food and then it can be adapted quite easily to weddings as well. It is a stamp of quality, people come here, they think seasonal quality. Jordan is a fantastic chef; the challenge is for me now is adapting that to a wedding for 100 people and making it up to scratch to what Jordan was doing. So we are working on that and we will continue to work on that.

Jordan: I am Jordan Macaleny; I am a Glasgow born chef. I became a chef and I love the industry because when I was 12/13, my mum used to give chopped chicken with scissors, so then as soon as I finished up in school, I wanted to take on a career as a chef to show my mum how not to cut chicken with scissors. I did my apprenticeship at Macdonald hotels for three years and I won Apprentice of the year. After that, I did my section in The Crown. My head chef was the President of Scottish Chefs, Joe Kingsley, so that was an absolute bonus for me because he was the Godfather of chefs and still is. It was the best way to become moulded working there for three years; we got two rosettes. I did competitions at ScotHot, my dishes were on the main menu. I worked alongside Derek Johnstone who is the Masterchef of Great Britain on and off for six years, who has developed me and taught me everything I know so that is the guy that I always speak very highly of. I was a sous chef for three years and I was his head chef for a year and then I have just worked for certain high calibre chefs in Edinburgh, and I obviously become the man I am today.

When I was 21, I moved away from Glasgow to Edinburgh and started at the Balmoral and I did 3 years at the Balmoral. The reason I moved to Edinburgh was because the food scene in Edinburgh compared to Glasgow at that time was [better], so obviously I wanted to climb the ladder, become a head chef. So moving to Edinburgh was the quickest way of doing that.

Tell me about the restaurant.

Ruggiero: So, it seats 60 plus 30 people in the conservatory. We do also have the space outside the terrace, so it is a huge restaurant everyone can enjoy and have a great experience. We have the possibility to create private events, big parties, such as Christmas or a banqueting style version of functions. The conservatory can be closed/private, you can still be operating in the restaurant. So with the capacity of the restaurant, it is fantastic.

Every day [while getting the restaurant ready], there were some unexpected challenges but that was the best part of it actually. To believe and to make it happen, and actually we did and we had a great soft opening. People were very happy about it, what we are trying to do and this is what was the best part actually of the opening of the restaurant.

Where does your inspiration come from for creating these dishes?

Jordan: The inspiration comes from all the chefs I have worked with. Very high-calibre chefs who all have different skill sets with how they cook and the use of ingredients. But the best way of being a chef is to use local, seasonal and Scotland has got some of the best produce. We are five minutes away from the water. We speak to local farmers and producers; we are always on the phone to suppliers to gather the best and cook with a lot of passion.

What are your favourite dishes to cook or eat?

Jordan: Me personally, I love cooking venison. Scallops, lobsters, high end fish and meat obviously.

Aaron: It is really about what the moment is. It is about the food, the product but it is everything else around it. The time, the surroundings, the environment, the weather, the locality.

Ruggiero: I do like the fact that we call it like Season Quayside, I like season produce myself, so I am a big fan of fish and scallops. I go crazy when I go in a restaurant and I can get the best products that are on the market.

What are your favourite ingredients to work with?

Jordan: Every single day I am working, I do not dislike any job in the kitchen. So it does not matter if I am cooking a chip, or a bit of wagyu beef, I will still treat it with the same love and care.

Tell me about your menus.

Aaron: We have got a market menu as well [as the à la carte] which is fortnightly, and so we are going to be promoting that. You get two courses for £18.95.

Jordan: We offer the market menu as well because we feel that if people are needing a quick lunch whether they have got an half an hour break, come in, have the two courses and we will try and do it as quick as possible at a reasonable price because people do not to want come in during the week and maybe spend £36 on a rib eye. They might want to come in and want the full 2 courses and the market menu is designed to take the full two courses.

Aaron: There are options on the other menu also. We have some beautiful dishes that are maybe more adapted to dinner instead. So it is quite a big scope to mix it up.

Is that going to be quite difficult trying to work that out around the produce?

Jordan: Organisation is the key to success in a kitchen, or any establishment, not just a kitchen but if you are organised and you are prepared then you can do anything you want.

What are the important factors in choosing your local producers?

Jordan: Just the best that they can provide us, so the customers are having a great experience, enjoying the food.

Ruggiero: That is easily why the place was born, to make sure we do have those local interactions, even with the drivers from the deliveries.

Jordan: East Lothian is only 30 min drive and there are so many farm producers and just loads of vegetable producers. We get a daily report of the offers from the suppliers.

Aaron: We also have out here every Saturday the markets. There is a market right out the front there, so we are going to try at some point do something in conjunction with them as well. For example, they might use some of the produce and then we can create something in here.

What are your personal goals over the next couple of years for the restaurant?

Jordan: I want to take this restaurant to the next level because obviously our competitor next door is a high-end chef. At the end of the day, I want to make a name for myself. I am determined and I know I want to achieve it because I always set goals for myself, and I always achieve them. Through the thick or the thin.

Aaron: That is why Jordan stands out apart from the crowd because he is ambitious. I think that is why you have to have the right people who really care about what they do. The power of projection is so important; if I believe I am going to do it, I am going do it.

Jordan: You have to achieve to believe.

Ruggiero: We are very ambitious. Wherever we go, and the place that we work for, the environment between the team is inviting every single person, [connect with each other], and then you get the best out of what is possible.

Jordan: I mean the biggest thing for me in this business is to obviously honour my general manager and the owner. But it is true. It is key that the owner and the chef and the General Manager all work as a team.

Why did you choose the Leith and Shore area to set up the restaurant?

Aaron: I think that Leith is definitely becoming the place to go for food and beverage. We are in good company around here, let’s face it. That is a good thing, because then you are associating yourself with quality. That for me was a really stand out point why we thought this location was so good.

What are your top 3 tips for running a kitchen, your top 3 tips for running a restaurant day to day, and then your top tips overall as an owner?

Ruggiero – General Manager: So in terms of service, it is all about being friendly and making sure that the customers leaves happy by offering a memorable experience. So that could be the case, even for a simple dish from our menu or even a simple coffee. It is the way we actually provide that care and service that makes a difference.

Aaron – Owner: I am going to say a really easy way. Respect. Respect everybody that is working here, whether they are washing the pots or they are the General Manager. That is one thing that you can do as the owner of a business. I like to lead by example as well, so I like to get involved, lead the team, that is really important. Then just to show people that you really appreciate them. And what they are doing. There are loads more I can add to that but if I had to probably just quickly nail it down, those would be the 3 things: respect, leadership and appreciation.

Jordan – Head Chef: I do not know how to really put it, but in the kitchen obviously I want my chefs to come buzzing to learn. There is nothing better than coming to work ready to learn everyday because in this trade a lot of people tend to buy things in nowadays to save labour costs but I would rather train the chefs, mould them to my standard. And obviously the customers have to get the best experience they possibly can.

What is the hardest job in the kitchen?

Jordan: Sixteen years ago, I was a commis chef. My previous job was the executive chef of three restaurants, now I have come here and people think when they are a chef for 4 years as a commis, then they are a Sous chef and it does not work like that. You need to put in the time and the hours to do that, to develop as a chef and to start at the bottom, like Arran started off as a kitchen porter, so did I, and that is the hardest job. And people disrespect people for washing dishes.

Aaron: And it is key. If you do not have a good kitchen porter, then you do not have a clean kitchen, it is so crucial. At the moment, I am doing the dishes but I do not mind because I know I can do it. You can do it, and then one day when you are standing over there, thinking you are above all of it, you do it. But the whole point is that it is a team effort.

Jordan: One team, one dream, that is how we roll. In here we look after each other, you see it is all about respect. Sometimes you need to be tough and you need to bite your tongue but we get there in the end. That is the key, as long as the boss can see that me and Ruggiero are doing well then he can step away saying, ‘I can trust you boys’.

So you have a takeout area which is your response to covid and the pandemic. Do you think the pandemic has permanently changed the way that hospitality works?

Aaron: It has done a lot of damage to so many businesses, I mean, just the staffing crisis is a nightmare. Businesses cannot be open 7 days a week because they cannot staff it so they have to reduce the hours. Everybody has been through a hard time, everybody. There are so many factors, as far as customers wanting to come back, they want to experience all the things they have not been able to do for such a long time. I think it is going to take years to fully recover from it. And the way that it is operated, everything needs to evolve and change. We will recover but it is going to be different. It is not going to be the same. The businesses that evolve will survive.

That is the same thing with the power of projection again as well, you just have to say, ‘no, we are going in this direction and we are going to do it. If we have some obstacle, then we will find a way around it’. No problems, only solutions.

Jordan: It is always good to have a plan B because you never know what is around the corner, and as long as you can still generate income to sustain a business, then the solution is to keep working.

Ruggiero: The way people actually think of things as being affected by the pandemic, maybe they are targeting specific areas rather than maybe going around the city, seeing somewhere else. It has definitely affected a lot but obviously the positive thinking of the mentality of hospitality is to stay strong because we all will overcome this period. At some point, every single business will rise again because this is what we need. Also the fact that businesses are not stable in terms of ‘should we stay open, should we close, shall we keep going?’ So again, the positivity needs to come back to the hospitality sector and I am sure we will all come out of this period at some point.

Anything else you want to add?

Jordan: It is just all about creating something special. I want people to come in here and take the moments away with them. I will always think that the last thing you eat is a dessert, and it has to be finesse because it is the last thing they remember. That is why I went ahead and took a pastry chef job before I put myself right in the middle. Anyone can cook but not everyone can do pastry and that is a fact. 100%. So, any chef out there who wants to challenge me on that, Season Quayside, 72 Commercial Street, EH6 6LX.


Hats off to the Chef for a fantastic chat and a better meal while Aaron and Ruggiero keep everything running smoothly for the optimum dining experience.

Aaron Hartman has been running Season Catering for many years and has worked with several high profile clients: the new extension of Season Quayside has been highly anticipated.

Season Quayside are currently accepting bookings for Christmas and the New Year; for those interested, they are also available for private hire. Keep an eye on their social media pages for updates on the festive menus available.

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