FOURty Seconds with Mark Best…

16 Dec 2013
3 min read
This week Mark Best tells us about his unconventional path into fine-dining, the influences on his dishes at Marque, Sydney and most memorable career moment.

Mark began on the career ladder as an electrician in the gold mines of Western Australia and only started on the path to becoming the chef that he is today at 25. “Starting my culinary career at 25 was mostly positive, I think. I was certainly very focused on my career change from the beginning and quickly established a career focus and objective after travelling through France for 6 weeks, eating all the way. Others who had started at 16 had some knowledge advantage, but I’m quite studious and quickly caught up.

It interesting how much my previouscareeras an industrial electrician helped. Seeing cooking as a series of small problems to be solved enabled me to step out of thereceivedwisdom and establish my own style quite early. Ididn’tknow what rules I was breaking!

My time at three Michelin starred restaurant Arpège, under Head Chef Alain Passard, informs me to this day. Themyriadof small, detail drivenphilosophiesI learnt over my 5 month stage there are a constant source. Each dish was a lesson and if you looked closely and asked why the dish worked so well, it opened up a world of possibility.

Having worked abroad, Mark returned to Sydney, Australia to open Marque in 1999. “Sydney is one of the great restaurant cities of the world. We don’t have as many fine dining restaurants as some other major cities due to our fairly small population. What we do have is a unique expression of fine dining whichdoesn’tconform to the Michelin model’s constraints. My greatest inspiration is the incredible Australian produce that walks through the door every day.”

Despite a deep-rooted love of his country, Mark’s respect and admiration for other foods and chefs is extensive. “If I could take a plane ride anywhere in the world, just for one meal, it would probably be toFäviken, in Sweden. I’ve known Magnus Nilsson for quite a while and admire him for his steadfast approach to his region and making such a remote outpost work.”

Marque’s cuisine combines nature and flavours to create an experience worthy of its acclaim as number 67 of the World’s 100 Best Restaurants in 2010 and as the Restaurant Breakthrough Award. “To date, the most memorable moment of my career is receivingthe break through award at the World’s 50 Best and having absolutely no idea what was happening.

My culinary philosophy is to bring ingredients to a point of un-natural expression and unnatural parings, while making them look and taste like they should be together. There is nogimmickon the plate, just the pursuit of a pure expression.

Three of the most important techniques in the cuisine at Marque are amplification – through dehydration and then rehydration with the juice of the same fruit or vegetable – parsimony – using every part of an ingredient – and layering – using the same ingredient many ways on the same dish to build textural and flavour complexity. And the most indispensable ingredient in every dish is an artist’s eye. Each dish is inspired by the seemingly randomaestheticof nature and my tiny, tiny kitchen. We don’t have room or time for bullshit on the plate. It is a tiny space and 500 dishes a night depart from it. It has honed my ideas, logically &aesthetically.

Our signature dish at Marque is ‘blue swimmer crab, with almond & corn’, which dates from 2004 and was a confluence of some of our smallphilosophies & happy accident.”

Although Chef Best may have no idea about the most exciting up-and-coming chef, his knowledge of his own work is unsurpassable. He exudes confidence and has bounteous faith in his contingent of chefs in his kitchen. Straight down the mark – excuse the pun – and an exceptionally hard worker, Mark’s go to meal after a long shift in the kitchen would be a piece of cheese and a bunch of grapes.

Visit Mark’s profile here.