Mark Jordan, Executive Chef, The Atlantic Hotel Jersey

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st February 2012
Mark Jordan joined The Atlantic Hotel as head chef of the Ocean restaurant in 2009, having previously worked in Gilpin Lodge Hotel, Windermere. Mark knew from school that he wanted to be a chef, and in his first job he worked with celebrity chef Keith Floyd. He then worked with French celebrity chef Jean Christophe Novelli, who has inspired him to create Michelin standard food. He helped Novelli open his restaurant in Lymington before moving to Wales to be the head pastry chef at Llangoed Hall Hotel, Brecon. After working in various restaurants around the UK, Mark was approached by Ready Steady Cook’s Steven Saunders to be head chef at the Pink Geranium restaurant near Cambridge. Mark has made various TV appearances, including for the 2011 Royal Wedding, when he appeared on The One Show cooking Jersey Royals as a tribute to the wedding. Mark talked to us about the restaurant and what produce Jersey has to offer.   Mark thank you very much, lovely to come and see you at The Atlantic Hotel. Let’s start today by telling us how many menus do you currently run here at the Atlantic Hotel and does that change between summer and winter because it is quite seasonal still Jersey isn’t it? The island of Jersey is quite unique and unlike the mainland in many ways. The summer months are really busy as many visitors come to enjoy the warm sunshine and beautiful beaches but Spring and Autumn times are perhaps when the island is at its most stunning and dramatic. Here at Ocean Restaurant we change the menus with the seasons, just as you would in the UK because 90% of the time we use local produce. The menus at our bistro Mark Jordan at the Beach also use predominantly local produce and so these are also seasonal.  Provided by the island or you import that from England or France? Provided by the island. When I first arrived in Jersey I spent an awful lot of time looking for suppliers. I wrote regular articles for the local newspaper for two years and during this time I gained a really good insight into what the island has to offer. I was lucky enough to discover a wonderful little honey supplier and I was involved in the launch of a Jersey cheese which is now sold in Harrods. Jersey beef was something that had been done before, years ago but at that time it was meat from the old dairy cattle. Now the new Jersey beef is a type of veal and I’ve been working with a local farmer to breed the male cattle up until about ten months before slaughter. So you got a Jersey Rose veal? Exactly, and I’m so fortunate as this was produced purely for me to use in the restaurant. It’s quite funny actually because people go into the farm shop and say, “Have you got any of this beef fillet, or has Mark Jordan had it all?” I like unique things that are very special and that are associated with what we do here at The Atlantic Hotel and the Rose veal is one of the big things. Do you have a repertoire of menus now Mark after seven years? Do you look back at what you did last year and then tweak it? Absolutely, reinventing the wheel every time you produce a new menu is tough. I tried doing that in the early years, it was the worst thing for guys in the kitchen because every time I say, “Right I'm changing the menu,” it would mean changing everything and that’s not really the best way.  It doesn’t bring consistency does it? It doesn’t, now I’ll change one dish at a time; perhaps when the sea bass is coming through or when Jersey Royals are in season, the seasonal produce will progress on to our menus. None of the dishes are what you might refer to as groundbreaking, but rather a combination of subtly developed, tried and tested favourites. For example sea bass with crab and potatoes which works well, perhaps one year we may do it with a tortellini - pan roast sea bass with tortellini - and another year it could be crab crushed Jersey Royals, it’s about constantly developing. But it doesn’t have to be revolutionary it’s evolution isn’t it? I've never confessed to be the most up to date and trendy chef that you'll meet. I’m not into potions, I tried it but I've been in the trade 25 years and to tell you a little story, I was once sent a box of experimental stuff from a company in London, it was full of syringes for doing apple caviars and all that, but to be honest when I opened the box I hadn’t got a clue where to start and I just thought, ”This isn’t me.” My style is more about the quality of the ingredients that you use, rather than too much showmanship. Which is the most important bit isn’t it? That is it, and too many people now lose sight of that,  Mark you talked about produce from the island here let’s talk a bit about sustainability. We're on a very small island just off a slightly bigger island in the UK, it’s quite a well known fact that fish and shellfish is a great source here in Jersey how important is it for you as a chef to be ensuring that you’re using sustainable fish and the shellfish and the what  you buy are from a sustainable and a reputable source? It’s hugely important because years ago fish wasn't in such dire straits as it is today, so as a responsible establishment you need to think carefully about what you’re putting on your menu now. Jersey is an island and we're surrounded by grade A waters so shellfish such as scallops and oysters are amazing. I never ate oysters until I came to Jersey, now I work with an oyster farm where I can actually walk out into the oyster beds, pick up an oyster and eat it raw. I can honestly say it’s the best, cleanest flavour that I've ever tasted. It’s for that reason that here at The Atlantic we try to build relationships with all of the local producers. For example I've got a guy who supplies the restaurant with lobsters; he's hollowed out an old war bunker and converted it into a vivier, the tide comes in twice a day and it changes the water each time. I took Eric Chavot to take a look when he visited the Island and he simply could not believe the freshness! I also work with a guy who goes fishing for red mullet - red mullet is fantastic off Jersey. Normally in the UK the fish is very small whereas here you get a pan mullet which is a good size mullet, the flesh is firm and it’s a beautiful vibrant colour. I have to be quite in tune with what’s available and when on the island. I could just buy everything from the UK and ship it over, but I really don’t believe that is the right approach. Can you adapt your menu Mark? If you get a call to say, “We've got a load of lovely bass,” can you adapt your menu and accommodate that? Absolutely, working within a luxury hotel environment it’s actually quite easy to do. I run an a la carte which has got a selection of six starters, six main courses and six desserts. We also do a TdH menu which has three choices - meat, fish and vegetarian and it’s on this menu that we can adapt if somebody turns up at the back door with a one off turbot or something like that, I can put it on the TdH menu for that evening which offers our customers fantastic choice and value. Putting your accountant’s hat on then Mark and your business manager’s hat on now you’ve got your own operation Mark Jordan at the Beach, there's this misconception that Michelin star restaurants don’t make money but how important is it for you from a chef and from a manager’s point of view that you cost your menus and you understand where your price points are and you deliver to a GP? Managing your GP is vital because restaurants that don’t make money don’t last very long. I am very lucky here at The Atlantic because its family owned and the directors give me a lot of support. But it’s bandied around isn’t it that you don’t make money in Michelin star restaurants well they keep going so… I can’t speak for other restaurants but the good thing about Ocean is that whilst it offers Michelin star dining, it’s part of a larger set up at The Atlantic Hotel where we also do everything from breakfast to afternoon tea to corporate events which makes it much easier for me to make my GP. To me that shows maturity in the fact that you understand that without those aspects you wouldn’t be able to use the finer items that you use in the restaurant? Yes, that’s right. If you suddenly stripped away breakfast and everything else and just turned it into a standalone restaurant we wouldn’t have the buffer which allows us to put things like caviar, foie gras and truffles on the a la carte menu. I think it’s important there's a lot of young chefs that'll say, “I only want to do this…I only want to do that,” and they kind of maybe miss the point that actually if you want to use turbot at X pounds per kilo you need to be getting that money from somewhere. Absolutely, I think that for young guys entering the trade they’ve got to go through this learning process. I wasn't always tuned into the GP when I took my first head chef role but it’s all part of developing and without making a profit no business can survive. In Jersey we've got a 5% Goods and Services tax which is added onto everything, so that's another 5% onto the cost price of all ingredients, so you really need to be aware of the true costs. You can’t just get a sea bass and cut it up and think, ‘Oh that's a nice portion.’ Everything has to be carefully worked out and I like to train all of the guys in the kitchen by asking them, “How much did that bass cost us?” They need to know the simple facts…you don’t need to be an accountant to know how to do a GP. It’s basic numbers isn’t it? It is basic numbers and you don’t need to know anything else, as long as you make a good percentage on your main ingredient. . Waste is also an important factor as well in costing your menus, you know, you can’t be cutting your bass too big, throwing too much away, chopping the tail off and not using it so you have to monitor waste I guess? Exactly. I keep using the bass as a good example, if we get a tail piece and it’s too small we’ll either fillet it out or envelop it and fill it with a langoustine or a crab mousse and steam it for the TdH menu. Nothing will ever get wasted. If there's any trim left from Dover soles it’ll become goujons on the lounge menu or on the nursery menu. We cater for children at both of our restaurants. So it’s just about keeping the guys on the ball so that they do understand that managing cost and waste is important. Last question for you then Mark what’s your favourite menu season and why? I love autumn because the end of the summer in Jersey is beautiful, it might seem that there’s an abundance of great produce available in the summer but I really like that crossover time between summer and autumn. How much game is on the island? Well there's pheasant on the island but… …I'm quite strange because I was brought up really close to a country house hotel which arranged shoots every year, but since I've been on the island there's not that much in terms of game… yes there is some pheasant on the island but there's not a lot of it so I'm opposed to just putting pheasant on the menu for the sake of it. I'd rather not have it on the menu than buy it in from the UK, I like to use as much local produce as possible. I think that's been evident in what you've said today you’re very passionate about the produce here. Absolutely. I like nothing more than putting an assiette of pork on the menu here at The Atlantic and knowing that it’s come from a trusted supplier just five minutes from the hotel.  More robust. Yes because people do come to me and say, “You don’t have much game on the menu,” but I don’t want to have Scottish grouse on which is going to cost me, I don't know, six pounds a bird to buy and then pay who knows how much to ship it over And you couldn’t be much further away from Scotland could you? Exactly and it doesn’t really work for me and what we stand for here, so I'd rather use something local but, getting back to the seasons, I love venison, in fact venison’s got to be my all time favourite… Well listen thank you for your time. Absolute pleasure. Great to meet you again and thank you very much for your time.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st February 2012

Mark Jordan, Executive Chef, The Atlantic Hotel Jersey