The Perceptions inteview with Chef Mark Greenaway
over 2 years AGOIain Fenwick
Citylicious sit down with Chef Mark Greenaway to discuss his eagerly awaited cookbook, Perceptions.
Mark Greenaway has had a busy 2016 to date, including a trip to Boston earlier in the year, and more recently to Singapore. However, the remainder of the year is all about Perceptions, Mark’s first cookbook, which comes out in July. There has been a huge buzz surrounding the book, with over 53,000 views of the promotion video so far. We were keen to find out a little more so I visited Mark at his restaurant to do a little digging.
Citylicious: Why Perceptions?
MG: The book is a Scottish cook book. We have some of the finest ingredients in the world, some fantastic chefs, but the perception of Scottish food is still not necessarily given enough credit outside of its borders. What I hope my book will do, is help show people what we can do with what we have here in Scotland, and change the perceptions of what our restaurants have to offer.
Citylicious: Why now?
MG: I have been asked the question “when are you going to bring out a book?” hundreds of times! It was of course something I was going to do, but everything had to be right. I have spoken to many publishers over the years, the publisher I have gone with, Relish, said to me “we will publish the book you want to write.” That was what I wanted to hear, having the creative freedom to do it my way was very important. The restaurant is now established, it has just all come together and I am happy.
Citylicious: What was the first cook book you ever bought?
MG: The first cook book I received was actually from my great grandmother. ‘Things A Lady Would Like To Know’. The first cook book I ever bought was Gordon Ramsay’s ‘Passion for Flavour’.
Citylicious: What other cook books have inspired you?
MG: Earlier in my career I worked at a hotel restaurant in Auchterarder. One of the other chefs had a copy of White Heat by Marco Pierre White. It had a big impact on me. I remember looking through it and thinking, this is what I want to be cooking. It wasn’t long after that I left Duchally House and embarked on a new chapter, a change in direction. So it not only inspired me, but gave me a new direction. The reality is though, that chefs are like magpies, we take ideas and inspiration from everywhere and store it all inside. I am constantly scribbling things on my notepad, in fact, the hake dish that is on the menu now was born from a sketch and scribble from over 15 years ago!
Citylicious: It is really a book for accomplished chefs. Many of the recipes are very difficult, why did you write it in such a way?
MG: I think it’s important that my first book is a true reflection of who I am as a chef and what I do. You have to put yourself out there and all the recipes in there are either dishes that have been on the menu, or will be on the menu in the future. It’s a very personal project and because of that, there was no compromise. Plus, it is not just about cooking something, there are some very good home cooks out there. What I hope they get from the book is not just how to cook something, but how to bring all the elements together.
Citylicious: Which is your favourite recipe in the book?
MG: Blueberry, Chocolate, Lemon. It’s the last dessert and has only just gone on to the menu this week. It’s a fantastic dessert and challenging too. Of course if you ask me this question again in 2 weeks’ time, I will no doubt have a completely different answer!
Citylicious: So it all comes together, you have a publisher you are happy with, and you start to put Perceptions together. How did you begin?
MG: It was the canapes. I kept it pretty structured. The chapters take you through what is essentially a full Dinner Party menu. Canapes, soups, fish and seafood, mains, cheese and desserts. The photography began with the canapes, so it made sense to just go with it. Of course it has been organically led by seasons. The producers I work with have had such a huge impact on the book too, so the flow of the book reflects that.
Citylicious: The photography is spectacular. You used Paul Johnston from Copper Mango, who you work with frequently. The design of the book and the visual impact is obviously very important, how much thought went into it before you got started, or did it evolve as you went along?
MG: I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted before we started. The book is in landscape which was very much on purpose. I feel that if it had been done in portrait, we would have been too restricted with the imagery. The wide shots allowed us to really capture what we wanted. We did mess around with a few ideas, but using the white and black with the reflections really works, and as a result the visual impact is very powerful.
Citylicious: You trained as a pastry chef earlier in your career, which is reflected in your plating. Did you consider writing a dessert cookbook?
MG: Watch this space! No, seriously, I have some ideas floating around in my head, I think in the future I will certainly look at that. I just felt the first book had to be a complete book.
Citylicious: If there was one person you would like to buy Perceptions, who would it be?
MG: Every apprentice chef! I know that is not one person, but I would like to think that Perceptions can inspire the next generation. Particularly young Scottish chefs, it’s important that they understand how important the relationship with the producers and suppliers is. I wanted to include as much information about the producers as possible, they helped shape me as a chef. You meet people along the way that have had an impact on your career, I would love them all to have a copy, Natalie from Hebridean Sea Salt, Jeremy from Ochil Foods. If I had to choose only one person that I would like to buy it though… Marco Pierre White.
Citylicious: OK, I’m going to ask a few random questions now that aren’t necessarily about the book, but questions I want to ask, so please indulge me. Your food hell?
MG: Over cooked liver! I cannot stand it! I love liver, when it is cooked well it is delicious, but when cooked badly, can be absolutely disgusting.
Citylicious: Food heaven?
MG: Trifle! What’s not to love, it has sponge, it has jelly, it has fruit, it has cream, and it even has chocolate sprinkles on it! I love it.
Citylicious: So what does Mark Greenaway eat when he gets home at night?
MG: I always have a Sunday Roast. It’s a really important meal for us, always chicken! After work… just something simple, pasta with garlic and butter, mainly because it only takes 11 minutes! Other than that, cheese.
Citylicious: Who was your mentor?
MG: I didn’t really have a mentor. I suppose the chef that had the biggest influence on my career was Darrell Felstead who I worked with in Australia. It was his desire for perfection that I remember most. That is something that has stayed with me all throughout my career. I mention him in the book actually.
Citylicious: So if he was to come into the restaurant and say, chef, cook me whatever you want. What would you cook him?
MG: I would like him to have the Tasting Menu, but if it was only one dish, the scallops dish which is in the book. I think he would appreciate the simplicity of it.
Citylicious: On the whole, people in general are far more informed and knowledgeable about food and what they eat nowadays. Terms like farm to plate and words such as provenance are now used in every day conversation, whereas a few years ago, these were only used by those in the industry. Has this made your life easier, or more difficult?
MG: Easier I think. It is great that people want to know which farm their beef came from, or where their scallops came from. The knowledge helps them appreciate what you do more. The interest in the industry can only have a positive impact on everyone involved, long may it continue.
Citylicious: Your favourite restaurant?
MG: *long pause The Ledbury
Citylicious: So the book is out next month. You will be doing a Q&A at the Book Festival, what else is planned?
MG: I will be doing a 10 venue Book Tour in October. I will be visiting my old places of work and doing guest chef nights at each location. The book is my journey so far and I felt this was an appropriate way of paying homage to the restaurants that have helped me along the way.
Citylicious: What is next for Restaurant Mark Greenaway?
MG: I just want us to get better. I will never open another Restaurant Mark Greenaway, I would certainly look at a new concept, however, it would have to be the right project at the right time. For now though, it’s important we continue to strive to improve. The most important things is delivering the best dining experience we can, and that is what drives us.
Citylicious: What do you hope Perceptions will bring to the restaurant?
MG: Credibility. I want people to enjoy the book, but I also want them to see what the team here does behind the scenes. Every member of team Restaurant Mark Greenaway plays an important part in what we do. It was very important to include each and every one of them in this book, as they all deserve to get recognised for their contribution.
Published by Relish Publications, the UK’s leading publisher of recipe books and fine dining restaurant guides.
Book Title: Perceptions by Restaurant Mark Greenaway
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