James and Louise Rusk are dynamic, energetic and glamorous to boot. James began his career as a coat-check boy, working his way up to Balthazar restaurant in New York, while Louise was once named Young Scottish Entrepreneur of the Year – the couple is now behind lifestyle and restaurant brand Rusk & Rusk. Their three award-winning eateries specialise in prime steak from both Scotland and as far afield as Galicia: Hutchesons City Grill, The Butchershop Bar & Grill, and The Spanish Butcher. Here they reveal why the only way is up for their mini-empire...
What makes a restaurant great?
James: In this day and age, it’s a whole journey. It’s about evoking a story before customers arrive – through media and photography – and then continuing the journey when they arrive with the food, service, atmosphere, lighting, décor and music.
What’s so good about Scotland’s food scene?
James: The Scots have always been real fashion-seekers who crave new things. People have travelled the world and learned skills which they’ve brought back to Scotland.
Louise: The country has more to offer than ever, with so much good provenance.
Which chefs do you most admire and why?
James: Those with real taste and an understanding of visuals as well as the flavour, like Thomas Keller.
Louise: It’s about personality, individuality and getting the concept right. We love New York hospitality group AvroKo.
How important is branding to Rusk & Rusk?
Louise: Our restaurants are all very different, but customers know exactly what they’ll get: quality, stylish spaces and good food.
James: We both recognise where we started and what made us tick, and we build that into our restaurants. You need integrity and to keep the core ethos intact.
What’s special about your 130 staff?
James: It’s the world’s biggest cliché to say the customer has to feel like king, but it’s true. So our staff are instilled with the idea that only they have the power to make people feel great. It’s not me and Louise, it’s them.
Louise: It’s important that we lead by example and provide the tools to help the team grow in confidence. When they understand what you’re trying to achieve through your values, you come to a perfect partnership.
Which dish are you most proud of?
Louise: Our great Scotch egg collection.
James: At Hutchesons City Grill, it’s our beautiful prime Scotch beef, egg and caramelised cauliflower purée.
What has been your most memorable meal?
Louise: When we bought our first flat together and cooked dinner for friends. I made a Jamie Oliver steak pie and it was bloody good. It was such a special time; we had no idea about the journey we were about to start.
James: It’s also when I discovered Louise’s love of potato!
Who does most of the cooking at home?
Louise: We both love it, so we fight over who cooks when guests come over.
James: I do a big family Sunday roast every weekend – with many potato dishes! Our oven has loads of doors, because of course you need to balance cooking the croquettes with cooking your roasties, mash and gratin.
Who are your dream dinner party guests?
Louise: I’d have Facebook’s cool feminist Sheryl Sandberg, Michelle Obama and Anna Wintour. Closer to home, I’d have Judy Murray.
James: I once wanted to be a rock star, so I’d want Jimmy Page from Led Zep and Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam. And the ultimate entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson.
What’s next for Rusk & Rusk?
Louise: We’re working on our fourth Glasgow restaurant, which is going to have more of an international feel.
James: We’re hopefully building blocks to grow into something really substantial. We want to expand internationally and go into different markets like lifestyle and retail, with a brand that our customers really engage with.
What about opening a restaurant in the capital?
Louise: It’s a massive aspiration of ours, and we’re working towards it. When we do come down to London, we want to be totally ready.
James: The next couple of years are going to be very big for us, there’s no doubt...
*News feature is a transcribe from Anna Pointer's article for Good Things Magazine.