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Scottish Produce Perceptions with Chef Mark Greenaway

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We were delighted last week to catch up again with Chef Mark Greenaway for a second Chef’s Table interview.  When we reminded him that it was back at the beginning of 2014 we last did a full interview we both decided to move on….quickly.

One thing that has not changed is Mark’s passion for Scottish ingredients, it’s producers and the need to change the perception that Scotland not only produce amazing ingredients but can also create fabulous food. “Although we complain about the weather, it is the climate that contributes to how good our food tastes, just look at our amazing summer berries.  When I worked in Australia I never ate the berries because they did not compare to the ones grown at home, which had the benefit of cool nights, spring rain and slow growing which created a much fuller flavour.  If you include our incredible sea food, venison and Aberdeen Angus beef – these are all products and suppliers I am proud to work with”

Mark has been delighting his customers at his eponymous Restaurant Mark Greenaway in Edinburgh since opening in 2013. Mark’s menu at his 3 AA Rosettes establishment are always intriguing with a presentation that is a culinary delight to both the eye and palate.

We asked Mark was there a chef that had an impact on him or who he would like to spend a day with.  “Marco Pierre White when he was at Harveys and his book White Heat changed the direction of my career. It was at a time that I had thought about moving and working in London.

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When an agency chef brought a copy of the book with him in the kitchen and I could not believe that food could be created and plated like that – it was mind blowing! It made me question what we were doing at that time and we had 2 Rosettes and were creating good food.  Remember, back then there was no Gordon Ramsey or Jamie Oliver and the internet was still young.  Instead of going to London, I talked to some friends who had been backpacking and they suggested I should go to Australia where I would find interesting styles of food – so I went!”

With his passion for cooking beginning at just 15 it was a move from Glasgow to Lanark that saw his culinary career really starting in 1992.  Mark then went on to gain valuable experience during his 5-year stint in Australia, working at some of the nation’s top establishments. Mark says “the standard of cookery in Australia was on a par with what you would find in London at the time” adding “the outdoor parks and beach life did win hands down”

On his return to Scotland, Mark continued his profession at One Devonshire Gardens in Glasgow, Kilcamb Lodge Hotel in Strontian and The Dryburgh Abbey Hotel in the Scottish Borders. Away from the kitchen, Mark has taught at Braehead Cookery School and the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School, as well as giving regular cookery demonstrations at food events including Foodies Festival, Taste of Edinburgh, Hotel Olympia in London and the Scottish Chefs Conference.

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We spoke to Mark about Perceptions, his simply beautiful book, which not only is about Mark’s recipes but also gives you an insight to and the stories that surround Mark and his team.  Sharing with us his relationships with suppliers, none of whom had seen the book prior to printing, is a testament not only to the importance he places on local produce but an opportunity to tell their stories.

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It also has an introduction by author Ian Rankin.  “Ian and I met when he had taken time out from writing to concentrate on some charitable work.  He is very generous with his time and one of the events he put together was a Crime Writers Dinner  – we got to spend a day in my kitchen planning the menu and filmed that and part of the dinner – it’s on YouTube – and have become friends.  I did not want another chef writing the foreward, so I was delighted when Ian agreed to do so”. 

We next asked about his visits to Boston representing Seafood Scotland, attending the Seafood Expo North America. “It is great fun, a great place to showcase Scottish seafood and exciting for the chef who travelled with me – an important part of their culinary education and is an intense couple of days doing shows and demonstrations that showcase Scottish Scallops, Salmon and Mackerel”.

It’s different to appearing on television we imagined? We wonder how Mark felt about the makeup “well it stops your face shining…”

“Oh yes, television is important, it raises your profile on programmes like Great British Menu and Saturday Kitchen. It also shows customers what you can do so they feel confident that they are going to have a great meal if they visit your restaurant.  Television has changed a great deal – I remember not understanding Keith Floyd at all – shouting at his cameraman – talking about seasonal food.  But he was really ahead of his time focusing on the seasonality of produce”

Now Mark – a more serious question – what’s your secret to the perfect poached egg!

“My favourite breakfast is Eggs Benedict – and that is all about the egg. The eggs must be fresh – no amount of swirling, deep pan, shallow pan, more or less vinegar will make any difference unless you are using the freshest eggs you can get”  How about sous vide eggs? “Aahh, now that makes a different product, it changes the texture of the yoke altogether”.

One of Mark’s Favourite Tables from our last interview was Brasserie Chavot which sadly closed so we asked Mark did he have some new favourite tables to share with us? But, before we asked about place he has been to we asked if he could share his thoughts about restaurant life in Edinburgh?  “It has come a very long way, offering everything from a £10 burger to a Michelin Star experience. A good outcome of this growth is that the new generation of young chefs can stay in the area and learn, try new things.  There is a restaurant called Aizle – where the chef patron Stuart has no menu, which is a very brave thing to do, and he creates the menu from daily available ingredients and put dishes on the chalkboard.  It is really taking off and shows the diversity of what is now on offer”

Back to your favourite tables….

“Well, I was in Singapore for the Queen’s 90th Banquet last year and one of the chefs took me to a restaurant known as ‘no-sign board‘ because there was no money left to create one when they first opened! It is one of those places you would walk past but the food and service was incredible and I visited several times, everyone sitting outdoors.  It has grown and grown because of the quality of the food and still does not have a sign!”

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In a complete contrast, Fera at Claridges, is my other favourite table.  One of the most amazing rooms with phenomenal food, it is a stunning combination.  Also, it has one of the most incredible kitchens I have ever seen!

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Mark, as always, it was great to catch up with you

FT


Reviewer: Chef's Table
Address: Head Office
Website: http://www.markgreenaway.com/
Twitter: @markgreenaway
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/markgreenawayrestaurant/

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