Mark Greenaway (Credit STV Edinburgh for Image).
So I headed up last Saturday to meet Mark Greenaway. This was to be my first face to face interview and Mr Edinburger had decided to opt out and watch the football. So with the promise of fudge from The Wee Fudge Co. I headed off. Any nerves were quickly dispelled with Mark’s friendly chat and after a while I’d even forgotten that he’s been on television and holds more than a handful of awards for his food.
When did you know you wanted to become a chef?
I initially wanted to be a chef as I thought it would be an incredibly easy job because you’re just cooking someone’s tea, how hard could that be? At school I was quite good at home economics and at home I used to do some cooking, because mum used to cook something different for everyone and then one day announced she was no longer doing that and would be cooking the same dinner for everyone and if you wanted something different, you made it. So at 14 years old I started cooking basic dishes with stuff that was in the cupboard and fridge. Because my birthday falls in December, when I spoke to my guidance teacher he said I would have to come back to school in September stay on until December and then leave, the only way to avoid that was going to college and be a chef. Went home and told my parents I would be leaving school and they said I’d need a job to pay my dig money. So I picked up the yellow pages and phoned every hotel and restaurant in the area and got a job that way. I thought it would be easy. People confuse a real love for food with being a chef. Sourcing ingredients and creating dishes is the bit we all love, the service when busy is really good but it’s more the creative side chefs love. Ultimately I got into the trade at 15 because I thought it would be easy but I was a little bit wrong.
Have you had any other jobs?
No. I’ve never not been a chef. I’d never eaten in a restaurant until I became a chef.
On your current menu what is your favourite dish?
From our lunch menu it would have to be the Lamb Neck Fillet -Caramelised Onion, White Bean Purée, Rosemary Jus. It’s the most simplest dish and very tasty. We roast the lamb neck and then rest it in brown butter. As the lamb relaxes the brown butter goes into it. The lunch menu changes every week which is something we’ve only started doing in the last 3 months and it’s made a real difference. Lunchtimes are more busy.
From the al a carte menu it is the Loch Fyne Crab “Cannelloni” Smoked Cauliflower Custard, Lemon Pearls, Herb Butter, Baby Coriander&as we created this dish for the first year of the great British menu and it was something we hadn’t done before and new to us.
Out of starters, mains and dessert, what’s your favourite course?
Definitely dessert. I’m an ex-pastry chef. Back in 1997 when I was a young lad, I won the UK plated restaurant dessert of the year. Everywhere I worked after that put me on desserts and I qualified in patisserie and confectionery. I love the whole creative process of desserts. If you buy in strawberries you can’t serve a bowl of strawberries you have to turn it into something. A lot of our food in the restaurant reflects my past on desserts. When you buy in strawberries and create 5 different things with it, we do that with other bits of the menu. So we very rarely give you one cut of meat but use different elements of the animal. Creating a dish with different textures, flavours and temperatures is what excites chefs.
Anything seasonal. Each week of every season I will have a new favourite, as a chef it’s hard to pick individual ingredients.
If you could pick only ONE secret Scottish produced product, what would that be?
IQ chocolate from Stirling. It’s amazing! It’s a little bit like Hebridean sea salt, which is the only salt we use in the kitchen. No other salt is used. If we all don’t get behind Natalie who makes it, it’ll never become the market leader, which is the same with IQ chocolate. IQ chocolate is the best because of the flavour. Belgian and France are famous for chocolate but don’t grow cocoa so why can’t we be famous for chocolate. We need to get behind each other and the more they can flourish and become better known, that’ll help drive down prices as they will sell more.
Where do you go when you want to eat at a restaurant?
We don’t tend to eat out in Edinburgh much. When we go away we’ll always eat somewhere amazing. Only being off a Monday, when most Edinburgh restaurants are shut makes it a little bit more difficult. One restaurant we’re planning on going to in the next few weeks is Aizle. When I go out I don’t drink wine, I go for the food. You can’t buy the food you’re eating anywhere but you can buy a good bottle of wine anywhere.
Do you do the cooking at home?
It’s a good split. Nicola does a good amount of cooking and also helps run out front of the restaurant and does all the important bits, like bills and remembering to pay the staff.
Have the tastes of customers changed during your career?
They have become more adventurous now than they have ever been and also more accepting to try new things. TV shows and social media has helped massively. It’s in our living rooms. Back when I was a boy it was Keith Floyd and Delia Smith. Keith Floyd was massively ahead, talking about seasonality and local produce. I didn’t get him then but now I think he is a genius. Being more aware is good for us as chefs, as the expectations are higher from us, we then demand more of the suppliers and so on. It has a positive knock on effect. People now understand food a lot more now and don’t push wild herbs to the side like they used to but they’ll try them now.
Social media alone pushes chefs. If I want to see what anyone else is doing I can check. 15-20 years ago you’d have to buy their cookbook or eat in their London restaurant. Now on twitter I can search if I want to see. People have always taken photos in a restaurant now, it’s people and food, which is a massive compliment.
Photographing food in restaurant, love it or hate it?
I love it. If someone wants to photograph my food they are welcome to. What annoys me is when the husband realises halfway through they haven’t taken a picture and then does so and it looks rubbish. Most of our photographs are taken with our phones. The Evening News and Herald online are professionally taken. I’ve never had anyone stand on their chair to photograph their food, yet!
What ingredients should every home have in the cupboard/refrigerator?
Anything that’s fresh. Always cook with fresh ingredients. Let meat and fish come to room temperature before cooking.
We don’t use pepper in the kitchen. For us it’s a spice not a seasoning. Salt dulls bitter and sour notes in food and allows other flavours to come through. If you can taste the salt you’ve added to much. We use pepper as a spice not a seasoning as it gives that added warmth to dishes.
We only use rapeseed oil in the kitchen for cooking and always Summer harvest. Rapeseed oil is used in our kitchen as it has a neutral taste, very clean. If we wanted to make a dressing we’d use 1/2 olive and 1/2 rapeseed without it being to overpowering.
Do you have any tips for budding chefs?
Find 5 restaurants you think you want to work in. Speak to the chef and if they’re not there get their email, and email offering to go in and work for a week for free. It gives you the opportunity to learn what sort of kitchen you want to work in as no two kitchens are the same. Get in and do it as you’re not getting paid sitting on the couch. It’s a hard job but you’ve got to love doing it to do it. Going to college for 3 years and then stepping into a kitchen to find you hate it is a waste of time. I recommend day release at college and the rest of the week in the kitchen.
What’s your kitchen like?
It’s all male currently, had an amazing female chef but she had to go back to Canada. Trying to replace her just now and interviewing lots of females for the job.
What is a typical day for you?
Awake 6.30am every day and I sort out emails,recipes interviews then. 8.30-9am I’m at the restaurant prepping and cooking until 2.30pm. After that I’ll either stay here or head down to the bistro and catch up on more emails and interviews before coming back to RMG where at 5pm I’m back in kitchen to 10-10.30pm and then home. I’m in the bistro every day either on way to or from work. More often or not I’m also in bistro doing Sunday lunches so only day off is really a Monday. I Love working in Bistro with it’s open kitchen, as normally chefs are hidden away and don’t see those dining. Whereas with an open kitchen I get to recognise regulars and have a chat with them. If I had nights or days off I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. I’ve been a chef longer than I’ve not been a chef. It’s not a job anymore, it’s just what I do.
You’ve recently been in the press talking about hospital food, why?
Hospital Food is something which I’ve seemed to have gotten dragged into. My mum and I have both been in hospital and the food needs money spent on research and development. When a plate of food is nutritionally balanced it’s better and can benefit the patient. If there is anything I can do to help, I’m here. I’m happy to look at menus, procedures and try to make things easier and better. I was on Newsnight talking about it, has been covered by newspapers but I am still waiting to hear from them.
Plans for the future?
I’ll be appearing on Sunday Brunch in the near future, not sure when yet but it’ll be a proper slot cooking. With the restaurants there is a number of things in the pipeline. A private dining room downstairs in Restaurant Mark Greenaway opening for December seating maximum 20 people and private dining room in Bistro Moderne hopefully ready January. Also launching a new website in a few weeks time. We’ve thought about expanding the Bistro if we found the right location Aberdeen, Glasgow, Inverness who knows but it very much depends on location, rent, bills etc.. I’m also working with Nairns, come January I’ll be on their boxes worldwide as an ambassador. Hopefully launching end of November to be in the shops at the start of next year and I’m also going to be an ambassador for Bowel Cancer UK next year. We have lots planned to raise awareness and money. There’s lots in progress and it sounds like I’m incredibly busy but it’s very well managed.
Overall it was a great chat with Mark. We discovered a mutual love for The Marshmallow Ladyand good food. Other things I learned about Mark, he takes sugar in his coffee but not his tea, he’s one of three children and if he wasn’t a chef, I really don’t know what he would be doing. He can be found cooking 5 nights a week in Restaurant Mark Greenaway and more often or not cooking Sunday Lunch in Bistro Moderne, you should definitely get yourself along and make sure you say hi! Thanks to Mark for taking the time to answer my questions and for sharing the fudge.
Restaurant Mark Greenaway | 69 North Castle Street, EH2 3LJ | 0131 226 1155|