Chef Name: Mark Tilling
Title: Pastry and chocolate consultant.
UK Chocolate Master, 2006-2009 (7th in the world in 2009).
Winner, Bake Off: The Professionals, BBC2, 2016.
How old were you when you started cooking professionally?
I always wanted to be a pastry chef, but it was around the age of 12 when I really knew. It was at that age I started to cook and the passion for food interested me, as well as the science behind it.
What’s your earliest and fondest first memory of food?
Watching my grandparents cook, especially at Christmas time when all the pudding would be made. Seeing the time spent making them look amazing and the decorations that would be used was when I really knew I wanted to do this as a job.
Which chefs inspire you most and why?
I don’t really have any one person that inspires me because everyone inspires me. With social media these days there is so much to aspire to but if I had to say, then Jordi Roca and Jordi Bordas are two great people that are so humble and a great inspiration to me.
What are your two favourite cookbooks and why?
My two favourite books are Matiere Chocolate and Bleu Chocolate, both by Stéphane Leroux. His books look at chocolate showpiece work, which is one of my biggest passions. I love making structures out of chocolate and these books always help me take it to the next level – you can get lots of inspiration from them.
Which two ingredients could you not live without?
Of course it would have to be chocolate – a great ingredient that can be used in so many ways. From shaping it to adding different flavours to it, it is always changing, which is great as ‘we never stop learning’. The second would be raspberry. I use it a lot in my day-to-day work as I love the flavour, and the colour makes anything look so bright that it always brings a smile.
What is your favourite comfort food to cook at home?
Risotto. I love making lots of different flavours and I would say I have it at least once a week. I’m a big lover of all things made from any sort of rice. I also love trifle, a good British trifle. I just love the whole combination of jelly, sponge, fruit and custard.
If you could eat at any Michelin star restaurant in the world today, where would it be and why?
It would have to be Jungsik in New York City. I love the clean lines of the dishes, the way you can see how they use the ingredients and the Korean influences. It looks so amazing and the desserts from pastry chef Eunji Lee look even more amazing. One day I will get to eat there, I am sure.
And who would you take as your guest?
Well of course it would have to be my wife Vicky. If I didn’t take her there would be trouble.
What do you look for in a good chef?
Someone that has passion and is always willing to learn.
What advice would you give to chefs starting their career paths now?
Work hard and take any opportunity that comes to you. It may be hard work at the beginning but learn everything you can from anyone. This will mould you for later life and will be well worth it.
Mark Tilling is a Chocolatier and Pastry Chef.