Chef features and interviews
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Mark Poynton, Alimentum, Cambridge
Thank you very much, Mark for seeing us today. The first question I would like to ask is - How long have you been here in your current role?
My current role started on February 5th 2010, as Chef/Patron here Alimentum in Cambridge .And before that?
I was Head Chef from April 2009.
And what brought about the change, for you, from being Head Chef to becoming Chef/Patron?
I was invited to become Chef Patron by the new owners who came on board in February 2010. It was a great opportunity and the restaurant has gone from strength to strength since the changes took place. I'm delighted with how well the business is performing.
So has that changed the way you operate? Not as a business but you as a person? Do you look at things differently now?
No, not really because I always tried to run it as if Alimentum was my own restaurant, anyway. It does mean more now, if somebody breaks a something - it hurts me more!
(Laughter) It's more personal.
Yes, and it hurts the bank account more, but no I don't really run it any differently - the customer is the focus and we are committed to delivering seriously good food and seriously good value.
OK, Mark, what are the goals of the business? Commercially and accreditation wise?
Well, commercially - it's to continue on the profitable track we're on and not get complacent about quality, standards and value for money. As for awards - we would like as many as we can, naturally, but we are not going to chase them at the expense of commercial success. That is the main thing - if we don't make money we are not going to be a restaurant... and without the money we are never going to get any awards - so we have to remember that.
Has your focus changed? Are you more driven by the customer than the guides now you are Chef/Patron?
Well, I have always been customer driven, and seasonality driven and food driven anyway, so yes, it's always going to be about that. Especially from my background; I've worked in restaurants that don't make a great deal of money but have a lot of awards.
Mark, how would you describe your food style?
Seasonal; British produce cooked with love and care ... and attention to detail.
And how many menus do you run?
We run three menus at Alimentum: Pre-fix Menu, which is £16.50 for three courses; a la carte menu which is individually priced and a seven course Tasting Menu for £55.00.
OK. Since becoming Chef/Patron, what has been your biggest learning curve?
How to run a business. Nobody teaches you that. They don't teach you at collage and not a lot of Head Chefs will teach you how to work out percentages and staff costs and how much cleaning chemicals cost and stupid things like that. You just buy it without thinking, so that was a big thing for me and something to learn. I've been lucky in the sense that the new owners have provided a supportive and professional framework for me to develop these skills and gain the knowledge.
That is very true, a lot of Chefs become Head Chefs because they are good cooks and then they have to learn to run and manage a business - it's not an easy transition.
Yes, it's a massive thing. If someone could sit you down and say "You are a really good cook but you need to learn to manage the books"