IN a week ready-made meals were getting a VERY bad press indeed, the fastest rising star in the Scottish restaurant scene, Mark Greenaway revealed that, as a lad in Forth, escaping just that variety of food was his original inspiration.
“Mum got fed up with me complaining about boil-in-the-bag dinners and eventually just told me: If you want something different, go and cook it yourself!’ Well, I did.”
Now, over twenty years later, that act of culinary self-survival has led to him having his name above the door of what the top food critics are hailing one of the nation’s very best eateries, Restaurant Mark Greenaway in Edinburgh’s North Castle Street.
A new hit restaurant along with increasing telly exposure on shows like Great British Menu are snowballing to make Mark Greenaway the one being increasingly tipped to become the latest chef superstar.
However, you wouldn’t have bet any money on that happening back when he was being brought up in Forth and then Kirkfieldbank, attending Biggar High School and considering a catering course at Motherwell College.
“I got a place at the college but, as that meant I’d left school, that also meant my folks wanted me to pay my digs. Well, the only way of doing that was getting a job while I did my college course and so I started off working in the kitchens at the Cartland Bridge Hotel.”
He got his grounding at the Cartland - and at Lanark’s Woodpecker - before finding himself in the then brand new, five star Hilton Hotel in Glasgow.
“Well, it wasn’t a five star experience for me; think of it; a 17-year-old laddie in the kitchens of the Hilton just disappeared into the background,” said Mark. “There just wasn’t the opportunity to show what you could do or try out your own ideas.”
He decided that smaller was better and, after a stint at a Highland hotel, headed to the other ends of the earth, Australia to find his future.
“I’d met so many Australians working in catering in Scotland, I felt I would fit in there but I was always going to come back to Scotland. No arguments; we’ve the best produce in the world and I didn’t want to become one of those Scots who had to go abroad and stay there to make a name for themselves.”
He did come back and then started building a reputation at some very prestigious eateries like One Devonshire in Glasgow before taking the leap of opening his own restaurant in Edinburgh.
“When I started out there was absolutely no self-confidence in Scottish cuisine. That has changed in the past ten, fifteen years. Back then even the French knew we had the best produce but we didn’t seem to believe it ourselves. Things have changed.”
Now with a rising profile and a rising reputation, does a future as a `telly chef’ lie ahead for Mark Greenaway?
“Frankly, I don’t see myself as the next Delia Smith. No, the television is all about percentages; the more people see what I do, the more come through the door of the restaurant. Paying the bills comes first for the monent but I’d love to write a cookery book eventually - when I get the time to do it.”
And then perhaps a wee lad in Forth, fed up with ready meals, will read that book one day and....