Island Life Magazine Ltd December 2008/January 2009 - Page 106

life FOOD & DRINK Mark Young Restaurant Chef of the Year Left to right: Phil Legge and Mary O' Brien from Brickfields presenting Mark Young from The St Helens. Ever since Mark Young took possession of The St Helens he was determined it should be a two AA starred restaurant. He’s been striving to gain the second star since the St Helens attained its first, last year. He’s sure that it is because he’s upped his game from what was already a pretty strong position that he gained the AA Island Life Restaurant Chef of the Year Award. “We treat every customer as if they’re an AA inspector,” he says. “We’ve sharpened our presentation, and I put that down to my new sous chef, Jason West.” Jason came from the Royal Hotel, and Mark says Jason’s standard of presentation, and the quality and technicality of his cooking “polished the edges for us.” However polished the St Helens is, it is far from stuffy. Mark may be Chef of the Year but fostering a relaxed atmosphere has always been an integral part of what he wanted to achieve. “We wanted the restaurant to be accessible both 106 economically and in terms of atmosphere and ambience. It’s a misconception that to have two rosettes you have to be top dollar. We’re not looking to gain a Michelin star,” he adds, “which would mean charging up to £60 for a three-course dinner.” At present during week nights the St Helens is offering a three-course meal for £22.50 and two courses for £19.50. Saturday night is just a la carte, but even then a meal per head costs less than £35 including wine. As Mark says, “our food is accessible, not ponsy, and you don’t leave hungry.” An AA rosette is an indication of the quality of the ingredients sourced, quality of the cooking, and of the presentation. Having two is normally the point at which a restaurant puts its prices up, but Mark is not out to make it harder for people to go out to dinner in the current economic climate. “OK I’m not going to get the person who will pay no more than £3.50 for a carvery, but that goes against my principles of buying proper quality meat.” While Mark was achieving success as Chef of the Year, his son Jack was doing something similar. Through the Isle of Wight College he competed in the Rotary international young chef of the year and won his heat. Aged just 13 (his birthday is in November) he competed against 17 year olds to produce a two-course meal. “Getting the Island Life Chef of the Year award was great, and getting my second rosette is fantastic. But the pride I felt when they called Jack’s name out was unsurpassable,” says Mark. “I don’t expect Jack will be a chef. But if other children can look at what he’s achieved and think they’d like to get cooking too, then that’s great,” says Mark. “It’s really so important children are introduced to cooking, and to good food.” The Island's new funky radio station www.wightfm.com