• Searcys Interviews Mark Hix

    11 September 2019

    Mark Hix, celebrated chef, has partnered with Searcys for a series of ‘Harvest Supper Clubs’. We caught up with Mark to find out more about him and his passion for food.

    How did your career in the hospitality industry begin?

    Not knowing what to do with my life in my fifth year of school – you had the choice of metal work or domestic science, so I went for domestic science, as I hated doing metal work. Three friends and I signed up and we turned up thinking we would be in a classroom full of girls, but when we turned up there were only the three of us.

    How does a day in the life of Mark look now?

    All sorts – there is no fixed pattern to my working day. It ranges from all sorts of things – meetings, entertaining clients. Tomorrow I have a mini, one-day festival down in Dorset before I go off to festival down in Oxfordshire – a massive variety.

    What is your proudest achievement in your career so far?

    Probably setting up my own business.

    What key ways do you think the hospitality industry has changed since you started out?

    When I first moved to London it was very, very different – not much choice, there was a tiny percentage of the restaurants that there are now, restaurants never used to open and close as they do now – it was a very different scenario.

    What kind of food do you enjoy cooking?

    If I’m throwing a dinner party at home, I tend to cook Asian-inspired food. Firstly, people don’t expect it and secondly, I find it quite interesting.

    Where do you get your inspiration from for your Asian-inspired dinner parties?

    Eating out provides inspiration and I flick through a few recipe books such as David Thompson for Thai Food or Madhur Jaffrey for Indian. I tend to cook by taste and experience.

    What are you working on at the moment, do you have any exciting projects lined up?

    It isn’t a great time to be opening restaurants in London – landlords are trying to double the rent and that makes operating very difficult.

    What are your favourite seasonal ingredients over the harvest period? And how do you like to cook them?

    It’s great seeing the different mushrooms come into season, as well as autumnal fruits and different game birds, too. This is the great thing about cooking seasonally – you see all these ingredients coming around over the course of the year.

    How did you become interested in foraging and where is the best place you have foraged?

    I kind of grew up in Dorset but didn’t forage until I moved to London. I used to go to Epping forest with my old mate Andy Kress who taught me to fly fish, and I reciprocated by teaching him mushrooming and we had some great hauls in the Essex woods.

    What tips would you give anyone who was interested in taking up foraging?

    Go with a guide as there are dozens of mushrooms that look similar but are not good eating and poisonous – even now I only pick what I know.

    How do you find your suppliers and source produce?

    Because I write about food and have done for years, they often come to me or I seek them out at farmers’ markets and food festivals.

    What would be your top tips for someone who wants to eat more sustainably?

    I think that the key sustainable thing to eat is fish – people tend not to think about what kinds of fish they’re eating, and they tend not to try new fish. People stick to what they normally eat and aren’t that adventurous, but they should be because there are a lot more fish in the sea than what most people tend to eat. Shopping around a bit for fish is common sense at the end of the day and good for the ocean.

    What would be your last meal? What would you drink?

    Something indulgent – probably lobster and foie gras – I don’t really eat foie gras much, but I love it. I would drink the most expensive wine in my cellar, which isn’t actually that expensive.

    What advice would you give to any budding chefs?

    Stay at it, don’t keep jumping around to different jobs – a lot of people flit around, changing jobs every five minutes which I wouldn’t recommend. Stay at it, stay and try and learn as much as possible in one place. It’s difficult to say but try not to be too motivated by money – learn as much as possible before trying to jump at the ladder – it’s important to get experience as opposed to a promotion.

    [Click here for a seafood recipe by Mark Hix from his new book HOOKED: Adventures in Angling and Eating]

    On 12 September guests joined Mark Hix at The Orangery at Blenheim Palace for a one-off supper club, where they enjoyed a delicious, seasonal menu with wine pairings. The menu featured starters such as whipped butternut squash and White Lake goats’ curd on grilled flatbread and a main course of Woodland mushrooms, whipped potato, sea beets.

    In the coming months, Mark Hix will also be hosting supper clubs at Searcys venues the Bath Pump Room on 11 November and 30 Pavilion Road on 23 October. More information and menus will follow shortly. In the meantime, keep up-to-date with Searcys events here.