Mark Perkins has been Rosewood London’s Executive Pastry Chef since its opening. Brought up surrounded by fantastic cooks including his mother and grandmother (Mark still uses their jam and chutney recipes in his pastries daily), he quickly realized that his calling was in the kitchen. With a natural creative flare inherited from his artistic parents, Mark recognized his niche was in pastry and decided to create beautiful pastries at some of London’s most renowned hotels. Between 1999 and 2003 Mark worked at the Berkeley in Knightsbridge as Head Pastry Chef, alongside renowned chefs Pierre Koffmann and Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
In 2003, Mark joined Renaissance Hotel’s Chancery Court as Executive Pastry Chef and continued as Executive Pastry Chef when Rosewood London opened in its place in 2013. At Rosewood London, Mark is responsible for producing delicacies for the hotel’s restaurants and Mirror Room’s afternoon tea, as well as creating personalized in-room welcome amenities for guests. Since joining Rosewood London, Mark has incorporated his artistic talents into the tradition of afternoon tea, and is constantly pushing creative boundaries to ensure Mirror Room’s offering is one to impress with ever evolving art-inspired pastries.
Mark creates Art Afternoon Tea concepts drawing inspiration from London’s vibrant art scene with distinctive styles of cubism, Pop Art, surrealism and more. Throughout his career, Mark Perkins has earned many prestigious accolades within the industry such as Best Contemporary Afternoon Tea in the United Kingdom for two consecutive years and most recently, Craft Guild of Chefs Awards’ Pastry Chef of The Year 2023
What inspired you to become a pastry chef? You’ve been in the industry for quite some time. Would you have done anything differently when first starting out?
Since I was 10 years old, my focus has been directed towards the dynamic realm of hospitality. After my departure from school, I enrolled in a hotel management program where I found my passion in becoming a chef which ultimately let me into a formal culinary program. However, a pivotal moment presented itself when a friend of mine asked me to create their wedding cake. This unexpected foray into pastry served as a catalyzing force in my career, propelling me into my new journey. As I taught myself how to create sugar flowers, I found myself intrigued by the artistic dimensions intrinsic to pastry creation. I embarked on a self-guided exploration before formalizing my learning through further studies in pastry arts. I’ve never looked back and would not change a thing.
What is the philosophy and ethos behind the food you create?
My culinary philosophy is deeply rooted in the belief that dining is a multi-sensory experience, transcending food into an art form. My inspiration for creating the Art Afternoon Tea menu is drawn from the rich tapestry of artistic expression and brilliant artists that inspire the world. The Art Afternoon Tea collections at Rosewood London are a celebration of creativity, and a canvas where flavours, textures and stories converge.
What’s the latest trend when it comes to baking and patisserie? What is one food (pastry) trend you wish would just go away?
Sourcing local and sustainable ingredients is a big talking point in the industry, but it is not just a trend but a responsibility. We recognize the importance of these elements in the pastry industry and at Rosewood London, we are committed to staying ahead of the curve, constantly exploring innovative ways to incorporate this into our menu.
What is your baking style and the philosophy behind it?
My baking philosophy revolves around a dual commitment to aesthetic and taste. I firmly believe that the visual presentation of my creations is the first gateway to a delightful culinary experience. Every cake emerging from my kitchen is not just a treat for the taste buds but a piece of edible art, meticulously crafted to captivate the eyes and tempt the palate.
What’s your favourite comfort food? What’s your favourite pastry or cake or baked product?
My ultimate comfort food is a bowl of homemade vanilla rice pudding with seasonal fruits. As for my preferred cake or baked good, it greatly depends on the season and time of day. A fresh pastry paired with a great cup of coffee is a non-negotiable indulgence and when nostalgia calls, my childhood go-to cake is the classic cherry Bakewell.
Who or what was your inspiration to become a pastry chef?
My grandmother making homemade desserts, jams and marmalades in her kitchen as a child.
What is your advice to aspiring pastry chefs?
Be passionate about everything you do even the small jobs, they make all the difference.
Would you consider yourself as an artist? Are you inspired by artists when you create your pastries? When you create different products everyday where do you get inspired from?
I identify as an artist in my field, where creativity and a keen eye for detail are paramount. Drawing inspiration from artists across different eras of art has fueled my ability to curate our Art Afternoon Tea at Rosewood London. My creative muse extends beyond paintings to encompass the vast spectrum of nature, architecture and various other realms of inspiration, contributing to a diverse and captivating offering.
The topic of local food, from smaller, specialized and personally known producers, is becoming more important. What are some of your local partners from whom you source?
We prioritize the use of locally sourced ingredients, incorporating regional dairy, fruits, flour, and honey whenever feasible. Our commitment extends to collaborating with suppliers from across the UK, ensuring that our culinary creations not only showcase the richness of local produce but also contribute to supporting and celebrating the diverse agricultural offerings of the region.
What would you say is the key/winning feature of your creations?
Integrating art into my culinary creations serves as a distinct hallmark, garnering acclaim for our Art Afternoon Teas at Rosewood London, both within the city and beyond. This emphasis on artistic expression not only sets us apart but has become a defining feature that resonates with patrons who seek a unique and visually inspiring dining experience.
What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?
While our restaurant and banqueting menus prioritize seasonality, our approach to the Art Afternoon Tea is guided by a quest for moments and artists who are truly pushing the boundaries in the realms of art and culture. We seek to showcase not only the flavours of the season but also to curate an experience that reflects the dynamic pulse of contemporary artistic expression, ensuring each visit is a celebration of both culinary and cultural innovation
Have you ever considered being a vegan chef? How practical is it being a pastry chef?
I have not.
How can restaurants/ hotels/ chefs communicate the approach of innovative sustainable plant-based food/ food chains to others?
I believe the popularity of plant-based cuisine in the industry reflects a significant shift in consumer preferences. Recognizing the importance of sustainability, as chefs we are increasingly embracing plant-based products in the creation of pastries. This conscious effort not only caters to the evolving tastes of consumers but also aligns with our commitment to the well-being of our planet.
Which is the dish you’ve created that you are most proud of and why?
There are many dishes that I am proud of, but what I am most proud of is our award-winning Art Afternoon Tea collections. At the moment, we are showcasing the Masterful Art collection, which includes the most celebrated cakes to have featured in the series to date. The carefully curated pastries are tasty mini replicas of some of the most recognizable artworks and sculptures from contemporary Japanese sculptor and installation artist Yayoi Kusama, giant of post-impressionism Vincent Van Gogh, art icon Andy Warhol, enigmatic street artist Banksy and painter David Hockney.