Fresh from his success on BBC’s Great British Menu, Mark Poynton, of Michelin starred Alimentum in Cambridge, returned to his north west cooking roots to host an exclusive event with his good friend, One Eighty’s executive head chef, Colin Starkey. On Friday, 40 lucky guests were invited to table-by-table kitchen access to experience Mark’s award-winning culinary skills up close, before enjoying his specially chosen, seven course tasting menu in the restaurant.
Although now a respected name in the business, Mark fell into his career by chance when, at just 15-years of age, he took a part-time waiter job his grandmother had arranged for him at the Queen Hotel in Chester. Within six months Mark's enthusiasm had caught the attention of the hotel’s executive chef, Ian McDowall, and a year later the pair moved to Shrigley Hall Hotel, where Mark was made commis chef. It was here that Mark met Colin Starkey, and the pair have remained firm friends ever since.
North west foodies might also remember Mark from the time he spent alongside Paul Kitching at the former Michelin-starred, Juniper in Altrincham. From there he moved to Cambridge where his success continued. He is now chef patron of the Alimentum, which has won numerous awards, including a Michelin star and 3 AA Rosettes, and he recently appeared on BBC 2’s Great British Menu, reaching the Friday final for the Central region.
Mark applies classic cooking techniques to seasonal British produce to achieve complexity of both flavour and texture. Like Colin, who ensures that the majority of suppliers to One Eighty are located within 40 miles of the chef’s table, Mark is also serious about the effect that his business has on the ecosystems it relies on. Both chefs are keen supporters of local, seasonal produce as well as animal welfare, only cooking ethical foie gras and exclusively sustainable meat and fish.
Together, the two chefs devised a mouth-watering menu for the £60 per head event on Friday 26th September, which celebrated seasonal produce and local suppliers, with dishes including Mark’s grilled plaice with langoustine, fennel, cucumber and seaweed, as featured on Great British Menu.
Chef Colin Starkey said: ‘When I first met Mark he was a young, cheeky chef who wanted to learn and it was clear from the start that he was talented and would go far. He was always a pleasure to teach and to work with, and I feel proud that I had something to do with shaping his early career. Since our time at Shrigley we've become good friends and we share the same values of ethical produce for our cooking. It’s been fantastic to get back in the kitchen together and to offer our customers the chance to watch a Michelin starred chef at work.’
Mark adds: 'It’s been a great pleasure to be back in the north west and cooking again with Colin. My desire to cook professionally came from watching what went on behind the scenes of a restaurant, so it was fantastic to offer this opportunity to other people. And, who knows, by opening our kitchen perhaps we might have inspired someone else to have a go, and make cooking their career too.’