Chef Q&A - James Mackenzie
James Mackenzie’s Pipe and Glass Inn has just been awarded a Michelin star for the seventh year in a row
How did you become a chef?
I always enjoyed cooking at home, like a lot of people I used to bake with my mum. I grew up on the coast at Filey, and ended up washing up in a restaurant/café there at 13 years old. It was my first taste of kitchen life, and all the way through the rest of school I preferred going to work rather than going to school. From there I went on to what was Scarborough Technical College then (which is now Yorkshire Coast College), just after the likes of Andrew Pern, who I ended up working for years later, and James Martin. I was at college for three years and then worked at several different places, ending up in Worcestershire where I met my now wife Kate working at a gastropub. We moved back up to Yorkshire to work at The Star Inn at Harome for Andrew Pern. I became Head Chef for Andrew, and Kate was out front. We worked there for a few years and then ended up buying The Pipe and Glass in 2006. It’s our 10th anniversary in March next year.
What was the first dish you remember feeling really proud of?
I don’t know really – the first dish I always remember making is Yorkshire puddings. Perfecting Yorkshire puddings. I used to want to make them at home and to this day I’m always quite proud of them.
Can you tell me about your work to encourage young people into the industry?
We run a young chef competition, The Golden Apron, and we’ve just introduced a new qualification at Hull College, for their gold standard students. There’s a lot of talk at the minute about a crisis in our industry for recruiting good, skilled chefs. So we’re a believer in getting out there and getting stuck in, not sitting on the fence and moaning about it. We try and do our bit to encourage young people into our industry and we do apprenticeships as well. That’s one of the reasons for doing these kind of things – you get to see what’s out there.
How does it feel to have had your Michelin star for seven years?
It never stops being that pressure on all the time. We never chased a Michelin star when we came here 10 years ago. We had a Michelin inspection five days after we first opened, and I said to them then, ‘We’re cooking to have a successful business, not to chase awards.’ I’d rather have a full restaurant than loads of accolades on the wall, but it so happened that a few months down the line we started getting accolades. That’s still how we work today. It might sound cheesy and corny, but it is customer-focused. When we got a Michelin star, we didn’t expect it but it’s been great for the business and it helps you grow. But there’s always that pressure on.
Does the shine ever rub off?
When you first get it there’s a lot of media attention, especially round here because we were the first place in East Yorkshire to get one, and we’re still the only place to have one. But as the years go on the media focus kind of dwindles off a bit. People don’t realise it’s year on year, it’s day in day out and you’ve got to keep up that consistency. They can come and inspect you on a Tuesday lunchtime in February or a Saturday night in the middle of August. You’ve got to carry on doing what you’re doing and hopefully it’s good enough, but if you focus on the customer then it should be good enough. It’s not trying to tick boxes of any guides or whatever, especially Michelin because there’s no tick box section to do!
What are the most popular dishes on the menu at the moment?
Probably roast partridge. Any kind of game on the menu sells very well at this time of year so we’ve got lots of different game on – hare, partridge, rabbit, mallard. Sweet-wise the constant seller is a chocolate plate, which is five reasons to love chocolate. There’s five different types of chocolate dessert on there and that’s always a winner. Also at this time of year we do a trio of apples and people really like that – it’s an apple and bramble crumble, a sticky apple sponge and green apple sorbet. That kind of typifies what we’re about – taking the traditional things like your crumble and your steamed sponge pudding and modernising it.
Do you cook at home, or do you get enough of it at work?
A bit of both really! We have two young kids, so we try to, with the very little time off we do get. I like being stood in my own kitchen at home and being able to cook properly with a glass of wine and do the Keith Floyd bit, you know. A lot of the time it is one pot dining, I don’t tend to spend eight hours a day baking and cooking at home by any means. But it is nice to cook, especially with having kids, to just sit down and just have a roast chicken dinner with everybody. Every time we do it we say we’ve got to make this more regular, but I suppose that happens in every household.
Which restaurants in Yorkshire do you like to visit, if you get the chance?
That’s the thing, we very seldom go out. One of our favourites, it almost feels like going home when we go there, is The Star at Harome. Andrew’s still a great pal of ours, and we like going there. We go over with the kids if we can.
The Pipe and Glass Inn
West End, South Dalton,