MasterChef winner Mark shares his love for creating seasonal dishes using homegrown, free range produce
You trained and got experience in some great restaurants – what was the most valuable lesson you learned?
The most important thing I took away was teamwork. In a busy kitchen of any size, everything needs to come together at the same time for the dishes. Communication really is key and when we’re all working together, every dish will be served to perfection each time.
Can you tell us about how you choose the menu at Eckington Manor?
One of the more unique elements to the restaurant at Eckington Manor is that it’s on its own working farm. This allows us to work with the seasons and design the menu to suit, be it foraging for our ingredients in the herb and vegetable gardens to using the free range produce on the farm itself.
How did you and your wife Sue come to be working together at Eckington Manor? How long have you been there?
Sue previously worked for Judy at the Belle House in Pershore, so when we were looking for a place where we could put our stamp on the industry, Eckington was a perfect fit. We’ve been here for just over three years and have never looked back!
We would love to hear more about how you met Sue at Le Champignon Sauvage and your culinary tour around the word?
Our eyes met over a stock pot… just joking! We both had the same passion and interest for food and quite simply, that’s what brought us together and I think it just blossomed from there. Travelling for us was a great way to spend time together and really get to know each other too. We followed our taste buds across the world and witnessed some of the finest culinary delights available at some of the top restaurants around. From seeing how the food was prepared, right through to how it was served, we learnt so much together during our time away.
You won MasterChef the Professionals in 2015, what was the experience like?
My experience was incredible! During my time on the show, I got to visit some amazing and inspiring restaurants both in this country and abroad. The variety of flavours and skills that I was able to taste and observe has carried through to the kitchen at Eckington. I think the highlight was spending time with the other contestants and I gained some good friends along the way. We were able to share tips and learn from each other every day. It was such an enjoyable and useful experience.
What can people expect to gain from attending the cookery school at Eckington Manor?
We teach a number of classes from Italian cooking, to knife skills and restaurant dishes at home. We try and give the students an insight into a professional kitchen as well as passing on valuable hints and tips we have picked up over the last 14 years of being in the industry. We also focus on the story of food, from garden fork to dinner fork. All the ingredients used are fully traceable and either produced on our farm or sourced from local producers. From the novice cook to the more advanced at-home chef; our door is open for anyone who wants to learn more about food and flavours, and improve their skills.
What electrical appliance do you find the most useful and why?
We use a Thermomix in the kitchen for all our purées and some desserts, I couldn’t live without it.
If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?
Sue and I are both massive fans of pizza so if I had to eat just one meal that would be it! Over the years, we have mastered our pizza skills at home and love experimenting with different flavours and toppings.
Article by: Lucy Macdonald