Interviewed September 2011
Mark Best is the chef/owner of Marque, a restaurant in Sydney serving cutting edge cuisine.
Q – How long have you been cooking professionally?
21 years now. I was a late starter at 25. My previous incarnation was as an electrician in the Gold mines in Norseman Western Australia.
Q – Where did you train to cook?
I started my 2nd apprenticeship at the Macleay St bistro in Potts Point Sydney where I stayed for 5 years and won the ‘Josephine Pignolet Award’ for most promising young chef. I then opened a bistro for two years and then in 1998 a 4 month stage at L’Arpege for Alain Passard and a short stint at Le Manoir au Quat' Sais for Raymond Blanc. We opened Marque in 1999 where I believe my most formative training took place. Of course one never stops learning and I believe my training continues.
Q – How would you describe your style of cooking?
Modern-market driven cuisine with a view to capturing the escence of ingredients and bringing them to a point of unnatural expression. We eschew gimmicks and theatrics at the table and also endeavor to keep ego from the plate. The technique should be used to make unconventional pairings seem natural.
Q – Is there a secret for a successful restaurant?
There is no secret. Generally a successful restaurant will always have great food, warm and inviting ambiance, Professional & friendly service & represent good value for money at its price point. To stand out from the crowd the cuisine should reflect time and place and be a unique interpretation by the chef.
Q – Do you have a “signature dish” or favourite dish you enjoy cooking?
Our signature dish would be “Blue Swimmer Crab with Almond Jelly, Gazpacho, Corn Custard & avruga”. I have no favourite dish I just enjoy cooking in general and being inspired by the beautiful produce of Australia
Q – Do you have a favourite ingredient?
Again it is hard to choose a favourite but I guess beetroot would have to be up there or eggplant it is just the versatility of both ingredients. I travel the world and eat eggplant everywhere, especially in China: just astounding.
Which restaurant do you most enjoy eating at on your night off?
Probably Neil Perry’s Spice Temple wonderful interpretation of regional Chinese cuisine with arguably better ingredients than you find in China.
What is your most interesting or fun experience from your time in restaurants?
Probably the travel. Cooking in 3-4 different countries a year is just a wonderful experience. A high point would be our inclusion in the San Pellegrino list. I have made some great friends in the industry since that time.
What would be your “last request” dish?
Nothing fancy. A packet a of salt and vinegar crisps and a jar of dilled gherkins.
Is there another chef that you most admire?
My heroes. In Australia Neil Perry, Tetsuya, Peter Doyle, Phillip Serle. Internationally Alain Passard, Michel Bras, Pierre Gagniare
Any advice you would give to someone wanting to become a chef?
Nothing in particular.
Any final thoughts you’d like to add?
The Marque book will finally be published in October 2011. 320pages and 1.85 kg of Marque recipes and anecdotes from our 12 years