ÉLECTRONS LIBRES-AUSTRALIAN CHEF: MARK BEST
The Électrons Libres, is a group of chefs that are as individual or a leaders of a group have taken a unique route that goes beyond the learning process. Their philosophy transforms the cuisine of the present time as well as the cuisine of the future in a specific area (place) or country. Sometimes they are the leaders of a culinary movement but often, they are alone in their search. Mark Best is a good example of an ‘’Électron Libre’’ in Australia.
At the age of 21, Mark Best was an electrician who worked in the gold mines of Western Australia. In 1990, while helping a friend in a kitchen, he discovered ”the stove” (art of cooking), this event will change his life. At 25, he started an apprenticeship at the Macleay Street Bistro (Sydney) and only four years later he won the Josephine Pignolet Award for the Best Up and Coming Chef. Rapidly, he open his own restaurant, the Peninsula Bistro (a critical success), but he stopped everything and left for France. In France, he worked for 4 months (with no salary) at L’Arpège (Alain Passard’s restaurant). Soon after this apprenticeship, he returned to Australia, and opened the successful Marque Restaurant in Sydney (April 1999).
The cuisine of Mark Best is actually one of the most creative cuisine in the world. Mark Best works with a small team (6-7 persons) and in a very small kitchen. Working under those conditions has made him modify and develop his aesthetic. Like Alain Passard, he uses the best ingredients and works on different textures, contrasts and harmony of flavors. All that allows him to create the most delicious dish possible, nothing superfluous! Just see his recipes (ocean trout, beetroot macaroons, crab-almond gazpacho etc.) to understand the uniqueness of his cuisine. It is Passard + Australian’s ingredients + Asian influence, but at the way of Mark Best!
I finish with the words of Mark Best: I love the creative process. It is the reason I can get up every day and enjoy going to work…
Q+A WITH MARK BEST (www.marquerestaurant.com.au):
1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine at MARQUE and what is it main characteristics?
MBest- The cuisine at Marque is inspired and driven by seasonal produce. We bring this to a point of unnatural expression with a range of techniques, some old some new. The plates are to look entirely natural. I don’t like the technique to be visible.
2-(Scoffier) Do you have a flavour or taste from your childhood that is again memorable?
MBest- I guess the overriding taste memories would be from my mother’s family. All home grown vegetables, locally cured meats and pickled products. They were German immigrants who came to Australia in the 1850’s and maintain the food traditions to this day.
3-(Scoffier) Do you have a particular foods (or products) that you often use in your recipes?
MBest- The beetroot seems to keep popping up in our ideas. It is a poor man truffle. Rich, earthy, full of flavour and surprise.
4-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires you in your cuisine?
MBest- The 4 month stage I did at L’Arpège in 1998 continues to inspire and inform my cuisine. Passard is a genius. We have had his Chaud-Froid Egg on since opening in 1999. It is a philosophical touch point and reminds me of the beauty and genius of simple things.
5-(Scoffier) Eight years ago, we only know Tetsuya Wakuda like Great chef from Australia, but I have discovered with this Serie much extraordinary chefs… like you and a really different cuisine; French techniques with Asian influences and local products. Is there any an Australian signature in world cuisine presently?
MBest- Tetsuya and Neil Perry broke the ground for the next generation of Australian chefs. I and my pears are indebted to them for their international success. Australia is unique in that we are a wealthy western nation that is physically part of Asia. Indonesia is the same distance as Perth in Western Australia. We are heavily influenced by our migration and the ingredients they bought with them. I think the cuisine in Australia is becoming quite defined and mature. My own cuisine while firmly based in French culinary philosophy is totally informed by the ingredients and techniques of the Asian region we are part of.
6-(Scoffier) How do you develop (your inspiration) your recipes and construct your menu?
MBest- The recipes develop over time. They are part of a constant theme of evolution and refinement. A lot of small ideas come together (sometimes) into a big one. I also credit the tiny kitchen and its physical limitations with the food aesthetic. It is very pared back and minimal. We only have 6-7 chefs and send 500 plates a night. Things have to be sharp.
7-(Scoffier) I know that the chef Pascal Barbot (L’Astrance) take a lot of time choosing and picking his produces at the market. Do you spend as much of time to choose and pick your produces?
MBest- I have known Pascal since my time at L’Arpège and I think we share some similar culinary ideas. The great deal of our time is spent sourcing unique product. Knowing what to do with it is never a problem. The best produce immediately tells you what it needs to tell its story
8-(Scoffier) Do you use some elements from molecular gastronomy or new technology in your cooking techniques? If yes, which?
MBest- We keep a close eye on the culinary world and the latest technique. The trick is to integrate these techniques into Marque cuisine.
9-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that is characterized the cuisine of Mark Best and Marque Restaurant?
MBest- My recipe is one of the Marque classics “Blue Swimmer Crab with Almond Gazpacho, Corn Custard, Jelly & Almond oil” The original idea was the combination of crab and almonds. After that it was a matter of expanding on the textures. The crab is king in this dish.
10-(Scoffier) What is your goal (ambitions) as chef or for your restaurant? Do you think about write a book, a television show, others?
MBest- My ambition is to have my restaurant full every day of my wonderful customers who demand the best from us.
RECIPE: Crab with Almond Gazpacho & Sweet Corn Custard
INGREDIENTS & PROGRESSION RECIPE
-8 cobs of corn
1. Method: shave corn off the cob close to the core, blitz and pass through fine sieve and cook liquid out in thermomix at 80* for 4mins. If not thickened continue with 45 second intervals until thick.
-200g slivered almonds
-200g soaked bread
-Sherry vinegar to taste
-150ml olive oil
-Half clove garlic
-Salt and pepper
1. Method: In thermomix blend almonds, bread, olive oil and garlic until smooth paste, slowly add water until desired consistency, season with sherry vinegar and salt & pepper. pass through fine sieve.
-300g slivered almonds
-350ml cinzano bianco
-3 clove garlic
1. Method: reduce bianco with the almonds peppercorns and garlic until dry, add milk and infuse on low heat until warm, do not boil. Blitz with stick blender and pass through fine sieve.
-400ml almond milk
-2 1/3 sheets of gelatine soaked in cold water
1. Method: warm 100ml almond milk and dissolve gelatine, whisk in the rest of the almond milk and set in fridge. Once set, place jelly in kitchen aid and whip on high until it looks like a meringue, set in a container 5 – 8cm deep. Keep in fridge.
1. Method: heat clarified butter in pan, add corn kernels to cover the base of the pan, when first one pops cover with lid and keep pan moving, until corn has popped. In thermomix blitz popcorn on high speed till fine powder, season with salt.
Blue swimmer crab:
-8 blue swimmer crabs
1. Method : take legs and back off crab, remove filters and steam on 100* for 8mins.
-1st pressing almond oil
-Avruga herring roe
-Marque Restaurant/Executive Chef Mark Best (Head Chef Pasi Petanen)
4/5 355 Crown Street
Surry Hills, NSW 2010, Australia
1. Sydney Morning Herald, Restaurant of the Year 2010, http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/restaurants-and-bars/marque-crowned-sydneys-top-restaurant-20100906-14xyz.html
2.Redvisitor (vidéo), Voted 67th Best Restaurant in the World 2010, http://www.redvisitor.com/Local-Experts/Interview-Mark-Best.html
3. 702 ABC Sydney, January 2009, http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2009/01/31/2478260.htm
4. The Sydney Morning Herald, September 2009, http://www.smh.com.au/news/entertainment/good-living/chef-of-the-year–mark-best/2009/09/08/1252201213352.html
-Vidéo(s) : MasterClass, World Gourmet Summit 2007
1. Crab with Almond, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEN5aaPpmjU
2. Cured Ocean Trout, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fi1PqlNtE-s&feature=related
3. Citrus Marshmellow, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fi-gDk8N7pc
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