Mark Hix was awarded with an MBE in the Queens New Years Honours List for his services to the hospitality and catering industry. Below he talks to Signature Chefs about his passions.
Can you tell me a bit about growing up in the Dorset countryside?
I was born in West Bay, Bridport – about 10 miles down the coast from Lyme Regis, where I now own a restaurant. I didn’t appreciate it when I was a kid:
when you’re brought up by the seaside, you never do. I spent a lot of my time swimming, fishing and playing golf, but I just took it all for granted. Then I moved to
London, where I live now, and forgot all about the coast. Now I go down to Dorset about three times a month, to keep an eye on the business and have a bit
of time out. I’ve come to truly appreciate the area – there’s nowhere else like it.
Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion for cooking came from my grandparents. Later, I studied catering at Weymouth College, which was followed by apprenticeships with two great chefs; Anton Edelmann at the Grosvenor House Hotel and Anton Mosimann at the Dorchester. In September 2014, I opened Hix Academy at Weymouth college. The project combines catering and hospitality qualifications with a range of additional opportunities, including working daily in the Hix academy restaurant, which is based at my London establishments Hixter and Marks Bar.
You’ve been in the industry for over twenty five years. How has it changed in that time (for better and worse)?
For the better for sure – the choice we have these days is phenomenal. But the rise in the number of restaurant openings also brings its challenges: rents on properties are fierce, the consumer has more choice than ever and staff are increasingly difficult to find.
You’re a great champion of British cuisine – what would be your ultimate Brit dish?
A well-made pie is a thing of beauty, especially when it’s stuffed with game – pigeon, pheasant, or whatever is plentiful and in season. I make mine with a simple hot water crust pastry: flour, water, salt and lard.
What is the appeal for you about British regional food, in particular?
When we have so much great produce on our doorstep and great food producers and farmers, you don’t need to import ingredients from all over the world. Farmers are getting better, too. They are starting to grow and rear things that we can actually use in professional kitchens. Gone are the days when the best meat came from France. Now we have equally good chicken. Dorset has certainly influenced my cooking style, which relies on simple, locally sourced ingredients. If you’d asked people what British cuisine was twenty years ago, they would have said things like steak and kidney pie. Now, with all of the great produce on our doorstep, British food could be something like baked seabass with rosemary, or crayfish and brandy – dishes that haven’t been traditionally seen as “classic” British food. It’s not just about looking to the past and revisiting old dishes from 100 years ago, although, they can be really good too.
What’s your ideal day off?
I’d be back down in Dorset in a heartbeat. I love fishing and I keep an old vintage speedboat in the harbour at Lyme Regis. It’s a great way to relax and
see the bay from a different perspective.
Mark Hix MBE features his insights and recipes amongst the Greatest British Chefs of The South West and Channel Islands in the latest edition of this hard backed, british produced lifestyle guide to the region. More details Here