Head chef of the Pint Shop Birmingham, Mark Walsh, previously worked at award-winning Opus and Harvey Nichols restaurants
Tell us about your cooking
I like to keep things simple, respect the ingredients and the equipment and the fire. At the Pint Shop we’ve designed a menu that uses a lot of coal cooking, using an awesome charcoal spit roast and grill. It’s a really cool way to cook because you have to control it and feel and understand how it works. It’s not like your average chargrill or oven!
How did you become a chef?
I was looking for a job when I first moved to England from Northern Ireland and I had been a silver service waiter part-time, but no one understood my accent (some still don’t!!) so I asked the local pub if I could wash up or fry chips. After two shifts the head chef wouldn’t allow me to do pots and wanted me to help him out on the food side. I had enrolled at college in York doing construction but after a few months working in the kitchens it felt so natural and in my blood. I moved to Middlethrope Hall Hotel in York to work for a couple of years then spent a few more at Studley Priory before joining the Castle Hotel in Taunton, initially as a Chef de Partie, then Senior Sous Chef where we were able to retain three rosettes and a Michelin star. My main influences would be my father, Marco and Escoffier. My family is and has always been supportive in everything I have done throughout my career.
What do you eat when at home?
In truth, probably not the healthiest things. Anything from tacos to stir-fry to roast chicken dinners.
Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?
I’d probably say Joel Robuchon is one of the best chefs in the world. As the owner of 12 restaurants with more than 28 Michelin stars to his name, I’d say he’s pretty good! Brum has so many fantastic chefs, all of them have different styles and qualities. There are a few I have yet to try so I’ll have to wait to finish the list of restaurants before I give you my final answer.
Is the customer always right?
Oh, yeah always. Everyone can have an opinion.
Share a cooking tip
Don’t add salt to water when boiling eggs – it makes them harder to peel.
What was your favourite food as a kid?
I loved dulse. It’s a type of seaweed that has a lovely salty flavour.
Food heaven and hell?
Truffles ,white and black – both are heaven. Hell is anything with nutmeg.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
Squirrel, which we de-boned and made into a ballotine. Really nice but a bit gamey though…
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
Well, I’d probably be a divorced architect!
What do you recommend from this evening’s menu?
Our now-famous onion bhaji scotch egg, tandoori chicken flatbread and the octopus carpaccio. I’d finish with the lemon meringue fool.
MARK’S DEEP FRIED CAPRICORN GOAT’S CHEESE & RED PEPPER MARMALADE
For the red pepper marmalade:
- 2.5 kg red peppers
- 1kg red onions
- 100ml sherry vinegar
- 30g garlic
Slice down the red onions and garlic and sweat down until translucent. Slice the red peppers and add and cook down until it becomes sticky. Then deglaze with the sherry vinegar.
For the balsamic puree:
- 400ml balsamic vinegar
- 2g agar
- 50ml maple syrup
Bring the vinegar to the boil and add the maple syrup, check the levels. Add the agar, cook for five minutes, chill and blitz pass and bottle for service.
Preparing the goat’s cheese:
Take five Capricorn Somerset goat’s cheese, cut in half and pane two or three times. (Pane cooking is simply about passing food through seasoned flour, beaten egg and white breadcrumbs to give your food a coating.) Heat a large non-stick frying pan (or griddle pan) and over a gentle heat brown the goat’s cheese for one to two minutes on each side.