Interview with Mark Birchall, winner of AA Chefs' Chef 2022
The Independent Hotel Show collaborated with our partner, AA Media and interviewed Mark Birchall, the winner of the AA Chefs' Chef 2022. Mark is the Chef Patron of Moor Hall Restaurant in Lancashire and was rewarded his first Michelin star at Moor Hall in 2015. Since then, the Moor Hall has since been awarded five AA Rosettes, two Michelin stars and a Michelin Green Star under Mark's patronage. Known for his use of local, seasonal ingredients and his commitment to sustainable practices, Mark is a passionate advocate for the local food community and has worked to promote the work of Lancashire Producers.
What are the latest culinary trends (if any) you are seeing that you are implementing into the restaurant?
Without sounding arrogant, I try not to follow trends as such. We’ve seen lots of restaurants trying to be more self-sufficient over the last few years. More restaurants are focussing on growing their own food, producing their own charcuterie, etc. We’re seeing a lot more classics, especially pastry, hitting menus. There seems to be a big steer towards a simpler plate which can be difficult to achieve with only three or four components – there’s nowhere to hide is there?
How do you approach sustainability when it comes to menu sourcing?
I’d probably say 90% of our vegetable produce is sourced within a 10-mile radius of our restaurant, especially through the summer months. We always start on our doorstep. We’re lucky that in our area, we’re surrounded by organic producers who we have great relationships with – we usually see them once a week during the summer. It’s important to build those relationships and find out where the best quality produce is. During the winter months, we work our way out to source our produce, while making sure everything continues to be ethically and sustainably sourced. For example, with our scallops, we like to ensure these are foraged far enough out, not dredged from the coastline. We do everything we can to make sure we know who’s sourcing our food and how it’s getting to us.
For me, it’s more about responsibility than sustainability. It’s such an open subject. Some people will say they ‘don’t use too much cling film’ or ‘we don’t use plastic vacuum packs’ but there’s nobody monitoring whether this is the case. If you take responsibility for being conscious of sustainability, everything should fall into place.
Where do you find inspiration for your dishes?
We start with really good quality produce and let our surroundings inspire us. Then we consider which flavour combinations work well. We also think about the crockery we want to serve on or how we want to deliver it at the table. It’s the whole environment that inspires us.
How would you describe the culinary experience at Moor Hall?
As soon as you step foot on our property, we take you on a culinary journey through the whole place – whether it’s around the garden, through the kitchen, the lounge and then the table, we’re always looking after you. It’s about creating a place where guests never want to leave. I think we achieve that which is great.
What’s your favourite dish on your menu?
Possibly my carrot dish, which is a cheese custard with a Ramson pesto and sea buckthorn. For me it’s got everything – the sweetness from the carrots, the umami from the cheese, acidity from the sea buckthorn, temperature contrast and texture contrast. It’s our perfect dish.
Apart from Moor Hall what is your favourite restaurant with rooms in the UK?
Meadowsweet in Norfolk, that’s a lovely little place. I also really like The Star Inn at Harome, a nice little thatched roof pub with great food, in a nice village.
Have you attended Independent Hotel Show in the past or any other industry trade shows?
Yes, my team and I attended in late 2016. It’s worth going to if you’re opening a new restaurant or want to update your industry knowledge. There’s plenty of exhibitors there showcasing the latest technology.
Mark Birchall will be providing the menu for the AA Hospitality Awards on 25 September. To find out more, visit the AA Hospitality Awards site.