Interview: Tex Mex master Mark Greenwood
After six years travelling around the world, chef Mark Greenwood is back on UK shores and entertaining eaters in Battersea with his Tex Mex pop-up, known as The Shared Table. After a delicious night in his kitchen, we caught up with him about The Shared Table, what it’s doing for London’s homeless and what Mark has planned next for London’s pop-up fans…
What made you start up The Shared Table?
“When I started it I was travelling – I was away for six years. I went to a lot of places – Australia, New Zealand, parts of Asia, and also spent time in Portugal. Just seeing all those different cultures and foods made me want to do something with food, but also something that was a passion of mine. I’ve done a lot of charity work before, and I wanted to create a small-scale charity that over the years I could grow.”
How does the charity element come into The Shared Table?
“All the money raised at every pop-up I do is put towards food for the next venue. Then, on Christmas day, we’re just going to use the funds for all the food at a homeless shelter. We’re going to show up, give up our time for free, and cook. That’s where the money’s going. It’s called The Soup Kitchen. I’ve got a few people involved now and we’re trying to grow into a charity that we can have registered and do it properly.”
What is it about pop-ups that appeals to you?
“You can interact with your guests, you can talk to people. Everyone has that expectation built in because it’s a pop-up. It’s more relaxed. Because it’s my pop up I can go out and talk to my customers and almost become friends with them. When you’re working under someone else you would never be allowed to go and talk to the customers like I do in my pop-up. I don’t want ‘guests’ to come to my pop-up, I want friends – people who come to have fun.”
Where does your soft spot for Tex Mex cuisine come from?
“It’s quite strange, but it’s from when I went to Bali! There was a really nice Tex Mex restaurant there. It was in Seminyak, and it was called Mexicana. It was just very very good, traditional Tex Mex. Every time I ate there I wanted to do a Tex Mex pop-up!”
What’s next for The Shared Table?
“My next event is going to be called ‘Warmth By The Shared Table‘. It’s on 17 December at The Pillbox Kitchen, just by Bethnal Green Tube station. We’re going to do three courses and the food will be a twist on British bistro. It’s all going to be about sharing in the centre of the table.”
What’s it like learning to cook in a restaurant kitchen? Is it as intimidating as it is on TV?
“It depends on what level of restaurant you’re in, but the short answer is yes, you do get shouted at a lot! Many years ago I was working in very high-end restaurants and they’re very strict. But then also when I moved over the Australia and New Zealand I found a whole new way of doing things. They’re so much more relaxed. The shouting is more in the very high-end restaurants.”
What’s the worst thing you’ve heard in a professional kitchen?
“The worst thing that happened to me personally is having a stock pot thrown at me from my head chef, in the middle of service. It hit me in the shins. My crime? Just not being fast enough. It was when I was about 17. I was in service and he told me to hurry up and threw the stock pot at me!”
What’s the most important tip you’d give to someone who wants to be a chef?
“You can’t think it’s just a job. If you’re not passionate about it you’ll never be successful as a chef. You work long hours, it’s impossible if you don’t have the passion.”
You’ve eaten all over the world – what’s your favourite place for food?
“Bali, and specifically a place called Ubud. They’ve got a really great place called Monkey Forest. It’s beautiful and they do lots of healthy raw food. It’s my favourite destination in the world!”
And finally… what do you eat for breakfast?
“I eat a lot of avocado on toast or porridge! Just because it’s quick and I’m always busy!”
The Shared Table takes over the Pillbox Kitchen, two minutes from Bethnal Green Tube station, for a monthly pop-up on 17 December. Read all about it and book at The Shared Table website.