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The BIG Interview: Mark Sargeant, Chef Director, Great Northern Hotel

Sarah-Jane Lampe 31 December 2013

_MG_9406Back in the July 2013 acclaimed chef, Mark Sargeant returned to London to become chef director at the recently re-opened Great Northern Hotel. We caught up with him to find out what his plans are for the hotel’s food and beverage offering

Can you tell me a bit about your background and how you came to your current role?
I’ve been a chef for 20 years, 13 of which I worked for Gordon Ramsay. I opened my own restaurants Rocksalt and The Smokehouse two years ago in Folkestone, Kent. The role at Great Northern Hotel came about because of the synergy between the location of Rocksalt and Kings Cross. Door-to-door it takes me one hour, which means I can split my time easily between both sites and of course it is a very exciting venture.

What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
Every new restaurant is a challenge and the biggest one for us is to make sure we get a strong local following.

Are you involved in much of the day-to-day cooking in the hotel?
I have been out of the kitchen for the last four years now, which means I can get more involved in the business side of things. I put in place two very talented young chefs that run the kitchens and work very closely with me on the menus.

How do you go about recruiting good, quality kitchen staff?
It’s quite tricky. I own my own recruitment company Rocksalt Recruitment, which helps us find good-quality staff as well as run apprenticeship schemes.

What is the main focus behind the menu at Great Northern Hotel?
The main focus is on good quality core produce, seasonality and simplicity.

What plans do you have in the pipeline for the hotel’s F&B offering?
We are only just up and running, but already we are thinking of the next menu changes. We do this seasonally and as the ingredients change, so does the menu.

Are there different things to consider now you are back running F&B operations in London, compared to the provinces?
No not really. Being in Kent means you can focus more on one region, which we love to do and pride ourselves that most of our produce is from Kent. In London it’s easier to get good food from all over the country.

How do you plan to grow the food and beverage side of the business?
Steadily. We need time to get to know what our customers like and then improve on the offer as we go along.

In general, how do you think the catering side of the hotel industry is performing at the moment?
I think it’s fantastic. I think niche hotel dining is on its way back and Great Northern Hotel will be a forerunner of this.