Behind the Pass with Mark Young
Mark Young of The Bell Inn's kitchen confidential
I'm happiest in the kitchen when…
Watching Sunday lunch go out always fills me with pride. It is really good, even if I say so myself!
It has to be quality beef like the Hereford from Tom Hordle’s herd of New Forest steers and the Angus we are getting from Mike, The Farmers Butcher, based at Swallowfields Farm, just a couple of miles up the road from The Bell. I particularly love Prime rib steak, cooked over charcoal and served with a simple watercress and red onion salad.
At Chef’s table (your dream dinner guests):
My dinner party would mainly be comedians as laughter and food is a natural combination. My two favourites are Micky Flanagan and Eddie Izzard. I would also invite the entire cast of Black Adder and Joanna Lumley for her class, wit and conversation. Finally, my late grandparents Alan and Joan Ford. It was my Nan who first introduced me to refined food. She was a sensational cook, her duck a l’orange had a real impact on me as a young boy. My Grandad was one of my best mates as I was growing up, so it would be fantastic to spend an evening with him again.
How did you end up wearing whites?
Born and raised on a farm on the Isle of Wight, my love of food and hospitality started early living in the farmhouse my mother ran as a guest house. Produce came direct from the farm my father and uncles all worked and my Dad’s garden constantly produced vegetables for the table. A steady supply of game appeared throughout the year and fish came from my uncle Ron who launched his Orkney long-liner from the beach at Atherfield - locally sourced was in my blood from the start.
I quickly realised farming was not for me, but a career in cooking called. When I was five I told my mum I would be a chef on the QE2. After studying at the Isle of Wight College, I left my first chef job at The Chequers Inn and joined Cunard as a commis chef aged 19.
Tastiest recent meal out?
The Rising Sun in Purewell: I love Thai food and tend to eat at places serving different cuisines to my own. I had the duck spring rolls followed by massaman curry and jasmine rice. My most memorable meal ever was with three pals at The Fat Duck in Bray. It was like going to Disneyland for chefs. Heston’s team delivered 14 courses that blew my mind; truly inspirational.
Which chefs get your admiration?
Any chef that works with fresh food! Chains are killing the Industry. True chefs are becoming a rare commodity. Anyone dedicated to producing quality dishes with fresh ingredients gets my admiration.
Words of wisdom for aspiring chefs
Look after your back, share the heavy loads, there’s no shame in it, and stand straight with two feet on the floor.
What’s the food focus?
Letting the ingredients speak for themselves. Local and seasonal goes without saying. I love taking the classics and putting a modern twist on them.
What’s on the menu now?
We have delicious rump of Romsey lamb at the moment, simply marinated in loads of fresh herbs and garlic, served with roasted heritage tomatoes, courgettes, olives, and a warm feta salsa. It’s a BBQ-inspired dish served in a 2 AA Rosette restaurant and bang on season. As for favourites: my crab brûlée never seems to come off the menu; a real crowd pleaser with toasted brioche from Bakehouse 24 in Ringwood.
Working the menu - do you accommodate vegans, gluten-free etc?
Absolutely! We have loads of GF options and are constantly developing ways to add more dishes that are gluten free. I also have a vegan option on each course, currently we have a Summer squash laksa that is absolutely delicious.
Cheese and onion crisp sandwich. I love a pork pie too. Sue from Blackwater Pork makes a mind-blowing one with their pedigree Gloucestershire Old spot pork - eaten with a packet of crisps of course!