Starting as a local boy on a fishing boat in Dorset, becoming a head chef at the age of just 22 years old and circling to London and back opening restaurants… Mark Hix is a true hospitality legend who has indulged himself in all areas of food, despite only going to catering college as it was ‘his only option’. With age, Mark has become more interested in the origin of food, veganism and of course – fishing… Absorb some of his awesome knowledge in this weeks episode.
00:00:00 Marks introduction
00:02:14 Meeting Mark Hix, setting the scene in Mark’s garden – right on the Jurassic Coast
00:04:00 Starting down in Dorset as a local boy on a fishing boat
- 00:05:07 “I didn’t have a clue really, what my future career was going to be.”
00:06:58 Mark still wasn’t sure what he wanted to do – so he went to catering college
- 00:07:40 “In the afternoon where you could choose a different subject – and it could be art, or sport or something. We used to skip that, go to the off licence, go back to his flat and have a party!”
00:09:38 Becoming a head chef at The Dorchester, 22 years of age
- 00:10:21 “And he left, and I said to the boss – Philip Isles – can I have his job? I was way too young… I got the job, and a couple of years later we got our name on the map.”
00:11:20 Can you still progress that quickly as a chef in this day & age?
- 00:11:25 “If you’ve got your heart in it, it’s quite easy to progress in this business.”
00:11:55 Moving to become head chef at Le Caprice AND The Ivy at 26
- 00:13:33 “People management is not something that anyone teaches you at catering college. So that’s completely on the hoof.”
00:13:43 Mark’s kitchens reputations – being brought up by the seaside keeps you calm
00:15:00 It’s not all about the food – it’s all about the customer
00:15:36 Mark and his restaurant growth
00:16:45 Has Mark picked up any advice along the way?
- 00:17:04 “I carried the philosophy and the food that I took and developed – but what I didn’t want to do is replicated anything I’d done before.”
00:17:32 The economic collapse in 2008
- 00:17:44 “I put a dessert on that was called credit crunch ice cream. We put it on the menu for £1.50 a scoop… Business then funnily enough was better than it is now – there wasn’t a lot of restaurants around.”
00:18:18 What was Marks motivation to open his own place?
00:19:27 How did it feel going and starting off his own back?
- 00:19:56 Instantaneous success!
00:20:36 Opening the second site in Dorset – moving down from London, then opening a third in Soho
00:22:29 Mark has not only opened a few restaurants, but closed a few too…
- 00:22:39 “You open restaurants, and you’re on a roll – and sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. I had a restaurant in a hotel in Belgravia, and a friend of mine introduced me to the owner, we opened it and… Belgravia is a funny place. I lost an awful lot of money in 11 months.”
00:24:21 Is there a ‘perfect’ number of Mark Hix restaurants?
00:24:50 Is consumer choice changing? Mark talks about restaurant life in London
- 00:26:12 “A lot of the consumers aren’t that discerning. So a lot of them don’t know the difference between good and mediocre.”
00:26:40 We have a better reputation in the UK for food now, but more chain restaurants that you perhaps wouldn’t get in Europe
- 00:26:57 “I think London – like New York and LA, probably Sydney and Melbourne sort of welcome lots of different types of cuisine. Paris certainly doesn’t do that. A lot of the cities in Italy don’t do that.”
00:28:23 Mark’s interest in Art – talking about the Tramshed in Shoreditch
- 00:30:00 “In the other restaurants, I always make the art a part of the décor.”
00:30:50 Has the provenance of food always been important to Mark? The trigger of interest when Mark started writing about food
- 00:31:20 “Some I knew who was the food editor for the Independent, Caroline Stacy, called me up one day and said Simon is moving after 8 or 9 years – would you like to take over his column? So I did.”
00:32:22 Was it harder in the ‘early days’ to get a hold of British supply & local produce? Why is it important?
- 00:32:45 “It was only much later in life I became interested in where food came from. Then I started having a very sound understanding that our menus should be based around British food – what’s the point in importing food when it’s on our doorstep?”
- 00:33:54 “All of us, whether we’re professional chefs or the general public – need to start supporting our British farmers.”
00:34:04 Do people care about supporting British produce?
- 00:35:49 “At least 50% of our spirits in our cocktails and on our back bar are British”… And a nod to Black Cow Vodka
00:37:35 Did Mark instantaneously change to start using British produce? Showing his support & discussing Food Rocks
- 00:38:56 Is there a criterion for the producers that Mark chooses to use at Food Rocks?
00:41:07 The complications of fishing, and using certain fish in restaurants
- 00:43:05 “For example, there will be 3 or 4 months here which is a closed season where they can’t dive for scallops – but two miles down the road in Devon coast they can then fish there and let the land rest.”
- 00:43:49 Was there more fish back when Mark was a boy?
00:45:40 Fishing and Brexit… How are attitudes looking?
00:46:18 Mark Hix’s book – Hooks
- 00:48:28 “People don’t really connect the river Thames with the RNLI. I did a whitebait dinner for the local Thames lifeboat crew about three years ago and I said – how often do you get called out? During that dinner, they got called out twice.”
00:49:30 Back to local spirits and wines – Conker Gin, Black Cow, etc…
00:50:15 What dates is the Food Rocks festival on? A free event!
00:52:22 Will Britain ever get red wines going?
00:53:27 Mark’s thoughts on the growth of the Vegan and eating less meat
- 00:53:59 “I’m not anti-vegan or vegetarianism. In fact, I’m in the process of writing a vegan book – I’m the most unlikely person to write a vegan book! But I have all the knowledge of vegetables and their provenance and where they come from.”
00:56:57 What does Mark Hix do to make vegetables interesting? Being experimental
01:02:01 Any business advice that Mark has to offer for those looking to get involved
- 01:02:33 “I normally say, don’t do it! [Laughter]”
- 01:03:29 “There’s all of the challenges: there’s the choice and competition, there’s the landlords that actually don’t think twice about doubling your rent. There’s the business rates that just escalate – and suddenly a business that was quite healthy becomes a business that is struggling to break even.”
01:04:33 Where can you learn more about Mark Hix and his endeavours?
01:05:40 Marks final thoughts
If you’re looking to learn a little bit more about Mark Hix, his books, the HIX restaurants and his amazing hospitality journey of opening and closing multiple venues, listen to the full podcast here or check out The HIX’s social channels & website: