GOLD DIGGING; Stephen Webster & Mark Hix
What do Stephen Webster and the leading London restaurateur and chef Mark Hix have in common? In this latest episode of Gold Digging, it turns out, plenty. As well as a love of contemporary art, fish, fowl and feasts are all subjects up for discussion.
Stephen describes his guest as a “close friend and collaborator” who has re-defined what a British chef is, and how the two of them are disruptors in their respective worlds.
Mark was brought up by the seaside catching mackerel and prawns off the end of the pier and cooking them up very simply. He recounts how supper with his grandad very often consisted of tomatoes from the greenhouse, a chunk of bread and a shake of Sarsons Vinegar, which he still sprinkles on his tomato salads to this day. It turns out though that dishes served at his art-fuelled feasts are never quite so simple. When Mark flew to L.A. to cook a Last Supper-themed Stephen Webster banquet, it was brain-shaped Absinthe green jellies that took centre stage. He says Van Gogh sparked the idea for his first signature jelly at an art-themed banquet in a Whitechapel church.
Talk turns to the sea and the time when Stephen sampled Mark’s “bycatch tacos” that use the “lucky dip” of the sea. The chef supports fishermen by buying smaller fish and other parts of the catch that they wouldn’t usually receive money for. This brings the pair onto their attempt at “bone fishing” — a technique used to catch fish by sight that swim in clear, shallow waters. Once in Miami together, the waters were so murky that all they caught was a Boxfish—weird-looking, with horse-like massive eyes, not necessarily known to be a culinary delicacy. Even so, Mark cooked it, rustling up a hybrid version of Chicken Maryland and Sole Caprice that played to the fish’s Monkfish-like texture.
The conversation ends where it started, art-themed banquets. The pair hint at artist Silvy Weatherall’s involvement— an artist that specialises in found items, whether it be the carcass of an animal or game bird head— in a Last Supper extravaganza at Hix Shoreditch, cooked up by Mark and curated by Stephen.
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