Never let it be said that a chef’s life is dull… at least so far as Mark Vernon is concerned.
Mark, head chef at The Maynard in the sleepy Peak District village of Grindleford, has been called on to deal with everything from break-ins to the bomb squad!
“That was because we had some senior politicians visiting,” he recalls. “Though more recently our kitchen was broken into and we weren’t allowed back until the police gave us the all-clear four hours later.
“We then had to pull out all the stops to make someone’s wedding day extra special. Phew!”
But life at The Maynard is generally all you’d expect from a high class country hotel.
“Our food is at the high end, but international quality at sensible local prices has proved a great mix,” says Mark.
“And although we’re committed to fine dining and locally sourced produce, we remain a popular foodie destination with the locals.
“Many walkers come our way and you can eat great food in your muddy boots with your dog by your side in the bar, if you wish.”
Mark has been part of this successful blend of Maynard ingredients for the last eight years and during that time he has worked his way up to the position of head chef.
He trained at Rotherham College of Arts & Technology before honing his trade at a string of respected names – including the award-winning Waterside at Bray on Thames; the Cavendish Hotel on the Chatsworth Estate in Baslow; The George at Hathersage and The Monsal Head Hotel.
Since being promoted to his current position at The Maynard in 2012, Mark has retained the restaurant’s two AA rosettes and increased the overall rating.
He also takes a keen interest in mentoring young chefs – under his direction, Ashley Young become a finalist for Eat Sheffield’s Young Chef of the Year award in 2014.
Mark’s menu combines a good range of classic and contemporary dishes.
“Personally, I have a soft spot for anything fresh; lamb in particular. But I like anything new, done intelligently – or anything traditional done in exciting new ways,” he says.
His chosen dish – a goat’s cheese and betroot cheesecake – is a good example of this.
“I chose this recipe because it shows off the best of The Maynard,” expe says. “Everyone loves a good cheesecake and this one has that distinctive Maynard twist.
“The combination of flavours is stunning, and most of our customers who try it fortunately agree. I hope you do too.”
Goat’s Cheese and Beetroot Cheesecake
with Salsa Verdi, Warm Toast and Endive Salad
INGREDIENTS (serves 6)
115g cheese crackers
50g unsalted butter - melted
300g soft goats cheese
100g soft cream cheese
100g cooked beetroot, diced
100g cooked beetroot, roughly chopped
30ml agar agar or Vege-Gel
1⁄4 tsp cracked black pepper
12 slices granary loaf
Curly endive for salad
30g capers, finely chopped
30g gherkins, finely chopped
10g basil, finely chopped
10g mint, finely chopped
10g parsley, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tblsp red wine vinegar
2 tblsp rapeseed oil
Finely crush the savoury cheese biscuits then add the melted butter. Press firmly into six food rings, 40mm diameter, to a depth of 5mm .
Place in the fridge to set for 30 minutes.
Whisk up goats cheese and cream cheese until well combined. Slowly fold in finely diced beetroot until thoroughly mixed. Pipe this mixture on to biscuit base leaving 10mm at top of rings for the jelly.
Bring water, roughly chopped beetroot and black pepper to the boil. Purée with a stick blender until smooth. Pour mixture through a fine sieve, then return to the stove adding the agar agar or Vege-gel.
Simmer mixture until setting agent is completely dissolved then sieve again and carefully divide over top of the prepared cheesecakes.
(Note: this mixture sets super quickly!)
Return to fridge.
Mix together the capers, gherkins, herbs and garlic; add Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar. Slowly add rapeseed oil a little at a time until a paste is achieved.
Remove cheesecakes from the food rings around 15 minutes before serving, pushing up from the bottom so as not to destroy the jelly; bring to room temperature.
Serve with warm granary toast and endive salad, with a light dressing and a spoonful of salsa verdi. Enjoy!