Simple food is at the heart of chef's collection
Celebrated chef Mark Hix has been at the top of his game for two decades, whether its cooking – he ran the kitchens at The Ivy, Le Caprice, Scott's and J Sheekey before setting up his own restaurants – or writing, with a newspaper column and several books to his name.
"But everyone always asks me when I am going to publish a book of my favourite recipes," he says.
And now, here it is... the aptly titled The Collection.
It's an impressively weighty hardback tome which is exactly what it says on the cover – a collection of Mark's favourite recipes which reflect his philosophy towards British food – his love of exceptional ingredients and his simple approach to their preparation and cooking, not forgetting his unerring ability to give even the most traditional recipes a contemporary twist.
There are nine chapters – from starters and snacks through to stocks and sauces and a final section on cocktails.
You will find such delights as Stargazey Pie and Roast Wood Pigeon with Blueberries to be followed by Burnt Cream and Elderflower Jelly with Summer Fruits.
"It's a collection of favourites from all the old books and we've tweaked some of the recipes as we go along," says Mark.
The new book also reflects Mark's love of art, with pictures of some of the work bought for his restaurants. A London exhibition coincides with the publication of The Cookbook.
"What I do is very simple. The art thing is not so much an influence on the food, more of an aesthetic influence on the restaurants, where I work closely with the artists.
"If you're in the restaurant business, you realise that it's not all about the food. It's about what happens from the moment you walk in the front door. It's about everything from the receptionist and the waiting staff to what you see on the walls."
Mark grew up right on the seafront in West Dorset, so close to the water that he could spot the shoals of mackerel coming into the shore.
He had a simple rod with a single hook and discovered at that early age how great it was to eat fish, simply, straight from the sea.
He's built his 30-year career on creating wonderful dishes with simple, local ingredients.
His business now owns six restaurants including Hix Oyster and Fish House which has wonderful views over the harbour to the sea in Lyme Regis.
The Hix food empire means he doesn't work in the kitchen now – except for opening up his own home in Charmouth once a month for up to eight people to watch him cook and enjoy a four-course lunch.
"It's a good thing to do and it's absolutely about having fun."
Most of Mark's time now is taken up with all aspects of his restaurants – "finding new things, new producers, new dishes, new wines and coming up with interesting ideas. That's what makes the business an all-encompassing thing"
Mark is also a passionate advocate for sustainable fish and local food, helping to organise crab and mack-erel festivals in Lyme Regis this summer, as well as the Food Rocks event in September which married food and music – "a sensible combination," says Mark.
"Food festivals are all about educating locals and tourists about what's produced locally. It gives producers a chance to show their wares.
"There were some small-minded locals who all thought that I was promoting myself. They missed the point completely. It helps to promote restaurants, pubs and other local businesses. And next time it's going to be even bigger.
"Something like Food Rocks is fantastic in bringing people to the area. And you can teach people about sustainable fish and all the great crabs and lobsters to be found on our doorstep.
"When we had the Crab Festival we had 50% locals and 50% tourists and we were showing them brown crabs, spider crabs and green crabs.
"Around 70% of people had never tackled a whole crab before. There's massive interest in food on TV and magazines these days.
"People are much more likely today to go into a butcher and look for offal or the unusual cuts."
Father of three Mark is also helping to educate children about food, with events at his London restaurant.
"We have a big long table and we put food out for sharing. Eating should be a family thing – the time of day when everyone sits around the table."
Hopefully tucking into something from Mark's long-overdue collection of recipes.
WMN readers can buy Mark Hix: The Collection at the special price of £20 (normally £25), with free p&p. To order, please call on 01256 302699 quoting reference 9LG and your credit card details.