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Spotlight On: Mark Alston

Spotlight On: Mark Alston

As Executive Chef at The Royal Yacht Britannia, 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 under the award-winning Alan Matthew, he joined Britannia in 2008 as Executive Sous Chef. Quiet and unassuming with a hands-on approach to cooking, Mark describes himself as ambitious, dedicated and always eager to learn something new.

What made you decide to become a chef?
Originally I studied hospitality management at Napier University but I got into cooking while working at Dalmahoy. Although I completed my degree, I knew from my first day in the kitchen I wanted to be a chef.

What’s your career highlight so far?
Taking on the Executive Chef’s position at The Royal Yacht Britannia after working here for six years. It’s a dream job.

How would you describe your food?
Classical British cuisine, using local Scottish ingredients wherever possible. Whether I’m cooking with Scottish beef, fish or shellfish, I don’t like to over-complicate things. If you have fantastic ingredients to work with, you’ll never go wrong if you keep the food simple and present it well.

What do you think is so special about Britannia?
It’s a unique place and you can sense the regal atmosphere. Savouring a candlelit dinner in the State Dining Room, where the Queen once enjoyed entertaining, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most people. It’s also an amazing feeling cooking in the original Royal Galleys, although challenging at times!

What’s your favourite Scottish ingredient?
There are just so many. Scottish lamb, venison from the Highlands, beef from Orkney. There’s great seafood such as scallops and prawns. We’re pretty spoilt for choice in Scotland.

Who would you invite for your ideal meal?
I think the Top Gear team with Jeremy Clarkson would be fun guests.

Quickfire Questions

Describe Edinburgh in three words
Fantastic culinary city

How do you like to relax after a busy day at work?
I spend time caring for my classic car and also enjoy foraging for wild mushrooms and shooting game birds throughout Scotland.

If you could sail anywhere in the world where would you go?
I would sail to Monaco, with it’s fantastic harbour, superyachts as well as many sailing yachts to look at. It would be interesting to see the Principality and walk around the small city of Monte Carlo as well as trying out the French and Italian influenced cuisine.

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Royal Yacht Britannia