Lake District Hotels, Mark Harris |

Q&A: Lake District Hotels, Mark Harris


Lake District Hotel
Executive Head Chef Mark Harris manages all of their kitchens, including Mizu – a new Pan Asian restaurant at Lodore Falls. He chats to us about falling in love with French food, dining Down Under, and how to stop onions making you cry
Lake District Hotel
Lake District Hotel Restaurant

Where did your interest in cooking come from? 
It all started from spending time in France as a child. We used to visit Brittany and my dad would cook using great produce from the local delicatessen. I love the refined style of French cooking and one of my favourite dishes is foie gras. 

What do you enjoy most about being in a busy kitchen? 
I love the rush and excitement of sending food out, and seeing chefs work hard as a team to craft something amazing. It’s really satisfying hearing feedback from our happy customers – being told that you produced the best meal someone’s ever had is certainly an ego boost. I do have to step out of the kitchen now and then though to have a healthy work/life balance – taking care of my three kids at home allows me to switch off, and cycling is one of my main hobbies.  

You recently moved from Head Chef to Executive Head Chef – what does the change mean? 
It was a challenge to begin with – I’m used to working in one busy kitchen with a big team of chefs, so having seven busy kitchens to look after took some getting used to. All the Head Chefs look to me for answers and there are a lot of different personalities involved, but luckily we all work really well together. It was important for me to learn more about the individual hotels and their different restaurants, bars and fine dining destinations. 

How do you manage overseeing so many kitchens? 
Obviously I can’t be in seven kitchens at the same time, but the Head Chefs all know that I’ll always make time for them when they need me. I’ve made it my mission to know each hotel inside out, which helps with any challenges that we might face. 

What is it about cooking that you love? 
I’m passionate about lots of different styles of cooking, and love the satisfaction of making a really special plate of food using raw ingredients. Local, good quality produce is key, and I always strive to use what’s in season to get the best taste and flavour possible. 

The new Pan Asian restaurant Mizu has just launched – what can we expect to see on the menu, and why did you choose to go for Asian cuisine? 
We wanted to add a fresh and healthy style of food, and Pan Asian cuisine will sit very well with the new luxury spa, which is due to open late summer 2018. On the menu, you’ll find sushi, sashimi, tempura, fragrant curries, delicately-spiced bowls of ramen, and tender meat, chicken and fish dishes from the grill. There are Japanese, Korean, Malaysian and Thai specialities to suit all tastes. I’m learning about new ingredients and methods under the guidance of talented Asian chefs. Even though I’m Executive Head Chef, every day is a school day. 

What advice would you give to the average home cook who’s looking to expand their skills? 
To gain more experience, I’d recommend trying to work in a professional kitchen for the day – you’ll learn so much. Also buy a good selection of cookbooks and experiment with recipes to broaden your horizons. 

Can you recommend a good cookbook? 
For a flavour of the New York fine dining scene, Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook by Daniel Humm and Will Guidara is great, but there’s loads out there. 

Do you have any cooking idols? 
Gordon Ramsey, and also Peter Doyle, the Executive Chef at est. in Sydney, which is my favourite restaurant in the world. My parents live in Australia so I’m a big fan of the cuisine there – it’s fresh and light due to the climate and there’s a lot of seafood. 

What are some of the best tips and tricks you’ve picked up over your career? 
Top of my list is soaking onions in water to prevent tears, and I’d also suggest cooking meat in a water bath as it’s easier and I personally think it tastes nicer. I’ve certainly matured as a chef over the years and I’m less hot-headed than I once was. I’ve refined my skills and I’m much more consistent, now able to execute 20–30 staple dishes well every time.

Published in: September 2018

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