Zack Hawke, head chef, The Mariners

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th November 2015
Zack Hawke started in the industry at a young age. His grandparents were bakers and owned a catering company, so Zack was always around family members who were passionate about food. At the age of 14, Zack began working as a KP in Newquay before working his way up to head chef at Nathan Outlaw’s pub, The Mariners. The restaurant, which caters to over 100 covers, is located in Rock, Cornwall, and prides its menu on delivering seasonal produce. We speak to Zack about the menu, the effects of the chef shortage, and the responsibilities that come with heading a restaurant that has Nathan Outlaw’s name above the door. nathan outlaw low resWhy did you want to be a chef? My first job was washing pots! I grew up in Newquay where there’s hotels and restaurants everywhere, so it was easy to get a job being a kitchen porter when you’re young. That’s how it started and I just moved my way up through the kitchen. How did you end up working for Nathan? I was working at a hotel back in Newquay, and I saw that Nathan and Paul Ripley were opening up The Mariners. I knew Paul through his son, so I just popped down and had a chat with him - it worked out quite well! What is Nathan like to work with? To be honest I didn’t know how much he would be involved when I started because he’s got a lot on with all the restaurants, he’s a busy guy. But he’s on the phone every day, he comes down every Saturday and we’ll have a tasting to keep ahead on the menus. He’s really hands on, he’s great to work with, he’s open to ideas and he’s got a wealth of knowledge so if you put an idea in front of him he can always add something or take something away that doesn’t have to be there.
Dream restaurant: I would definitely stay in Cornwall. I think it’s quite funny, when I worked in London for a short amount of time, a lot of the guys were using our produce. You go all the way to London and you see all the stuff you pick at home! I would probably go for a meat based restaurant, cooking whatever I could think of that week - keep it changing with small plates. Dream Brigade: Outside of naming people it would be a dream to have the same team on every shift. Because we have such a big brigade here, and we are open 7 days a week, we have to rotate. If you’re open five days a week and you have the same staff on every section that would be the dream.
So is the menu down essentially down to you, does Nathan have the final say, or is it a joint decision? I go to him with any ideas of how we are going to go forward for the next season, really we have a discussion about the dishes and how we want the menu to be as a whole. The individual dishes are developed from that, so his influence is massive. But it really stems from the ideas that we have together. What dish on the menu is your favourite? Do you have a particular ingredient that you like working with? This year we have been working really closely with Warren’s Butchers and pushing the meat side of the menu. We have a charcoal grill in at the minute so we are cooking over coals which has been a huge learning curve for everybody. It’s really hard to control, because if it’s too hot you can’t turn it down and if it’s too cold you can’t turn it up! So all of our steaks at the minute are cooked over coals. We have a monkfish curry on and that’s amazing, it’s a whole tail of small monkfish that we grill over coals with a masala sauce, braised coconut rice and flatbread. We are just trying to utilise our skills and cooking over coals. Does Nathan ever come to do a service with you? Not so much. He focuses on doing stuff at the two star, he tries to be at restaurant Nathan Outlaw for every service. He feels that people who go to restaurant Nathan Outlaw they would want Nathan Outlaw to be cooking! But he’s always around, the place is so small and only five minutes away from the others so you never know when he’s going to pop in!Baked Rice Pudding, Sloe Gin soaked blackberries low res Has Nathan influenced your style? Has it been hard to find your own style with Nathan’s name above the door? I see it as a really good mentorship because obviously he has got years of experience and he knows what he’s doing with his style. Everything that he brings, I try and take on and learn. I have always loved his style of not over-complicating dishes and really letting the ingredients speak for themselves. I have always worked that way so it’s quite lucky that I have just been fine tuning that by working with him. What are your daily responsibilities at The Mariners? It’s quite broad, everything to do with the food at The Mariners comes down to me, I run a brigade of about eight young chefs and we do a lot of covers so it’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. How is it managing a brigade of young chefs? It’s hard work but it’s good. It’s quite rewarding especially at the minute, because there is a shortage of good chefs out there, but it’s great to see that there is a young group of people who want to work and will work hard. It’s rewarding for them to be given responsibilities quite early I think as well. 150916_G2C_Mariners_014 low resSo the chef shortage isn’t something that has affected you at The Mariners? When I started off we had a lot of trouble hiring in the middle ground between chef de partie upwards. We seem to be quite lucky with the apprentices and commis, because Nathan has got the academy, so we see lots of young talent coming through. It has meant that we have had to put a big emphasis on teaching the young guys, but it has really worked out for us, we have got a strong team. What has been your single biggest professional challenge whilst you have been working at The Mariners? Probably the start up. Every start up is hard, especially with the name above the door, so the expectation before you even open is massive. And just making sure you hit that expectation and achieving it has really been the hardest part. People come in and see Nathan’s name and expect Michelin star dining, so we wanted to make a name for The Mariners, we focus on running a really good pub with good food and good ingredients, just keeping it simple. We are definitely getting there now, people are coming in for the Mariners experience but that was a big challenge, people already had expectations before they came down to try it.Cornish Large White Pork Belly, potato terrine, bacon jam, pickled cabbage_edited-1 What are your plans for the future? We are just going to keep on doing what we are doing, we have come a long way in the last 12 months and it will be exciting to see what happens in the next 12. Obviously we are massively seasonal, so this time of year in the winter we get to work on and think about what we are going to do for spring, really pushing the menu, taking it a level up every season.  

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th November 2015

Zack Hawke, head chef, The Mariners