CHEF UN­DER THE SPOT­LIGHT

Exclusively British - - CONTENTS - with Markalston,ex­ec­u­tive Chef on The Roy­aly­acht Bri­tan­nia in Ed­in­burgh

We meet Mark Al­ston, Ex­ec­u­tive Chef on The Royal Yacht Bri­tan­nia in Ed­in­burgh.

As Ex­ec­u­tive Chef on The Royal Yacht Bri­tan­nia, Her Majesty The Queen’s for­mer floating palace, Mark Al­ston is rapidly gain­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as one of Scot­land's most tal­ented chefs. Train­ing at the Man­darin Ori­en­tal in Lon­don and lat­terly at Dalma­hoy, he joined Bri­tan­nia in 2008 as Ex­ec­u­tive Sous Chef. Quiet and unas­sum­ing with a hands-on ap­proach to cook­ing, Mark de­scribes him­self as am­bi­tious, and ded­i­cated to pro­duc­ing un­fal­ter­ing per­fec­tion in this most iconic of five-star lux­ury venues.

What made you de­cide to be­come a chef? Orig­i­nally I stud­ied Hos­pi­tal­ity Man­age­ment at Napier Uni­ver­sity in Ed­in­burgh but whilst work­ing at Dalma­hoy I dis­cov­ered my love for cook­ing. Al­though I com­pleted my de­gree, I knew from my first day in the kitchen I wanted to be a chef. From Dalma­hoy, you spent two years at the five-star Man­darin Ori­en­tal ho­tel in Kens­ing­ton, Lon­don, how would you de­scribe your time there? The Man­darin Ori­en­tal Lon­don is ar­guably one of the best ho­tels in the world. I rev­elled in the ex­pe­ri­ence, it was a bap­tism of fire - you sank or swam! What is your favourite food mem­ory? One of my fond­est food mem­o­ries is eat­ing Ital­ian ice-cream with my fa­ther in Largs on the west coast of Scot­land. An­other is eat­ing raw lan­goustines, straight from the shell, after they’d been freshly plucked from Gal­way Bay. And for­ag­ing for chanterelles in the woods of Perthshire and cook­ing them there on a small camp­ing stove. What's been the high­light of your ca­reer so far? Tak­ing on the Ex­ec­u­tive Chef's po­si­tion at The Royal Yacht Bri­tan­nia after work­ing here for four years. It's a dream job. An ex­cit­ing project that’s in the pipe­line is Bri­tan­nia’s sis­ter ship, Fin­gal, Scot­land’s first floating ho­tel, open­ing late 2018. We’ve just fin­ished de­sign­ing the cus­tom-built gal­leys on board which will ser­vice the 80-seat ball­room. And now we’re work­ing on creat­ing the var­i­ous be­spoke menus for the restau­rant.

How would you de­scribe your food?

Clas­sic Bri­tish cui­sine with a light touch, us­ing Scot­tish in­gre­di­ents when­ever pos­si­ble. Whether I'm cook­ing with Scot­tish beef, fish or shell­fish, I like to keep things sim­ple. If you have fan­tas­tic in­gre­di­ents to work with, you'll never go wrong if you let the food and flavours do the talk­ing. Pre­sen­ta­tion is im­por­tant too, and on Bri­tan­nia, stan­dards are as high to­day as when the ship was in Royal ser­vice.

How do you hone your skills?

It’s an on­go­ing process. I keep my knife skills sharp by rou­tinely do­ing butch­ery and fish­mon­gery.

What do you think is so spe­cial about Bri­tan­nia?

The ship, which this year cel­e­brated 65 years since be­ing launched in Cly­de­bank, is so steeped in his­tory that it’s hard not to feel the magic. Savour­ing a can­dlelit din­ner in the State Din­ing Room, where Her Majesty The Queen once en­ter­tained kings, queens and heads of state, is a ‘once in a life­time’ ex­pe­ri­ence for our guests. It's also an hon­our cook­ing in the ship’s orig­i­nal Royal Gal­leys, al­though chal­leng­ing at times. The gal­leys are rel­a­tively small with low ceil­ings and port­holes for win­dows!

What are your favourite Scot­tish in­gre­di­ents?

I love Scot­tish lamb, veni­son from the High­lands and beef from Orkney. Qual­ity is top priority, closely fol­lowed by prove­nance. Scot­land has some of the best pro­duce the world has to of­fer, and we work closely with lo­cal sup­pli­ers to source the finest-qual­ity sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents.

If you could cook a meal for any­one, who would it be and what would you cook?

It would be a plea­sure to de­sign a menu for The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan. It might in­clude del­i­cate canapés fin­ished with ed­i­ble gold leaf, de­li­cious Scot­tish scal­lops and fil­let of Or­ca­dian beef. Back in 2011, The Royal Yacht Bri­tan­nia hosted a pre-wed­ding cock­tail party for Zara Phillips and Mike Tin­dall which was at­tended by Prince Harry, The Duke and Duchess of Cam­bridge, Princess Anne, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eu­ge­nie. We made an ex­quis­ite se­lec­tion of canapés for them to en­joy whilst sip­ping cham­pagne and min­gling on the Ve­ran­dah Deck at sun­set. It was a beau­ti­ful evening.

Who has in­flu­enced you and your cook­ing?

I have my own style which is in­flu­enced by the peo­ple and places around me, but when work­ing on board Bri­tan­nia the am­bi­ence of the yacht is an ad­di­tional in­flu­ence. We take pride in the dishes we cre­ate for our ex­clu­sive events and al­ways ex­ceed the ex­pec­ta­tions of our guests by treat­ing them like Roy­alty, with the finest of food and wines.

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