Chef Name: Marc Fosh
One Michelin Star.
One Repsol Sun Award.
How old were you when you started cooking professionally?
I started at seventeen. I was extremely lucky to land my first job in a Michelin starred restaurant in London and, although it was a very tough, dog eat dog environment, it definitely instilled good habits in me from very early on and I think that’s essential for any chef. If you pick up bad habits when you are starting out in this business, the chances are you’ll carry them with you for the rest of your career.
What’s your earliest and fondest first memory of food?
I have a few but tagging along with my mother on strawberry picking coach trips to the wilds of Kent is definitely one of my fondest. I had my first real kiss with a girl on the back seat of one of those coaches when I was seven. Unfortunately for my mother who was breaking her back to earn some cash, I would eat more than I picked but I can still taste those succulent, fragrant strawberries now! I always think of luscious strawberries with their soft velvety texture as the quintessential summer fruit and I’m still searching now for the aroma and taste of those delicious berries I enjoyed so much in my childhood. The kiss wasn’t bad either!
Which chefs inspire you most and why?
There are just too many to mention. I think our industry is blessed with fantastically talented chefs all over the world. I guess the ones I really admire and find inspiring are those that have developed their own style and stay loyal to it. Chefs that just follow the latest trends or whatever ‘fusion’ happens to be in fashion that week, whether it’s ‘Peruvian-Japanese’ or ‘Mediterr-Asian’, just bore me. The hardest thing for a chef to achieve is some semblance of originality and to create your own signature dishes. If you get close to that, you’ve done really well.
What are your two favourite cookbooks and why?
I love cookery books by great chefs but I must admit that Jay Rayner’s A Greedy Man In A Hungry World (Why Almost Everything You Thought You Knew About Food Is Wrong) is very thought-provoking and makes you think about global food issues in a very different way. His argument that ‘organic’has become little more than a marketing label for the neurotic rich is a very compelling one. I must admit that I’m more confused than ever on the organic farming debate but because of my obsession with food I will spend money on good quality raw ingredients, because I can afford to do so. I find certain factory farming methods – of chickens, for example – abhorrent. But I do understand that free-range, organic chickens won’t feed the world’s growing population. Whenever I have found great, local, organic suppliers, most of them can’t even cope with the demand from our restaurant alone. Another book I always return to is Harold McGee’s On Food And Cooking.I’ll never read it from cover-to-cover, but it’s a treasure trove of information on the history and science behind food, cooking techniques, ingredients, physiology and diet. These books give you a greater appreciation of what you’re doing in the kitchen. Does the alcohol really boil off when we cook with wine? Are smoked foods raw or cooked? Are green potatoes poisonous? Everything from milk, its components and why it curdles, to meat and how animals are slaughtered and why they are hung, is discussed thoroughly in an easy to understand way without being too academic and long-winded. Even a dumb-ass like myself can follow it!
Which two ingredients could you not live without?
Olive oil and salt.The art of seasoning is one all great chefs have to master at some point and using top quality salt is essential. My favourite is the local Flor de Sal from Mallorca. It has a great capacity to accentuate flavours with its wonderfully pure, clean salty taste and it combines brilliantly with olive oil. When I was just a kid growing up on the outskirts of London in the 60s and 70s, the only place you could buy olive oil was in a chemist or pharmacy! It was sold in tiny bottles and used to treat ear infections and other such ailments but it was never used for cooking. When I first became a chef I was very much schooled in the classic French techniques and cream and butter were kings in those days. Olive oil occasionally made a brief appearance in vinaigrettes and other salad dressings but it was never the star and nobody paid it too much attention. These days I couldn’t imagine my kitchen without it. My favourite olive oils are made with the Arbequina olive. These are small olives, green-brown in colour, with a pleasant, peppery flavour and slightly bitter flesh. The oil has an amazing aroma of green apples, fennel, and freshly cut grass with a hint of almond and citrusy lime. It just lifts so many simple ingredients to another level and I finish most of my dishes with a few drops of fruity olive oil and sprinkling of crunchy Flor de Sal.
What is your favourite comfort food to cook at home?
I have so many from a simple roast chicken to spaghetti bolognaise but I’m a sucker for a fragrant Thai curry and I have to cook one at least once a week!
If you could eat at any Michelin star restaurant in the world today, where would it be and why?
That’s insanely difficult to choose, as there are so many fantastic restaurants out there. I love New York so maybe I’ll go for Atera. I’m intrigued by the look and style of Ronny Emborg’s food (his cookbook is stunning) and the truth is I’ve wanted to go for a while now.
And who would you take as your guest?
My wife Iris and my three children. It would be a great experience for them too.
What do you look for in a good chef?
A real passion for food and a sense of taste…. the rest you can learn.
What advice would you give to chefs starting their career paths now?
Don’t be in a hurry and don’t be afraid of hard work. This profession is tough and it’s also a long marathon so it’s essential that you take the time to really learn your craft. Then be humble and cook from your heart!
Chef Marc Fosh is Head Chef at Marc Fosh Restaurant.