Mark McKenzie is the Head Chef at Tron Bar and Kitchen in the Merchant City.
Keen readers will remember that we blogged about his new menu here. And, at the foot of this page, don’t forget to check the re-run of our video of Mark preparing Barra scallops with fennel purée, crispy shredded ginger and an orange vinaigrette.
As the new menu beds in we asked Mark about kitchen life.
You can browse the menus and 5pm Dining offers at Tron Bar and Kitchen.
Can you describe the style of food served at Tron Bar and Kitchen?
MM: A collection of world-wide classics with a modern twist.
Is there a most popular dish for your customers?
MM: So far it seems to be the Bangkok red curry chicken broth that’s selling and going down well. I know myself how us Scots love a good curry.
What got you into cooking to begin with?
MM: My family were all really good cooks when I was a lad so I had a love for food from a young age. My papa used to be a chef in the army so maybe I inherited some of his skills.
Where did you start working?
MM: My first chef job was at Bar Buddha on St Vincent street all the way back in 1999. This is when it was the original one where everything was made from scratch and to a high standard. I found this to be an eye opener as to what being a chef was all about. I experienced my first buzz in a fast-paced busy kitchen there, and all the challenges that came with it. After that, I was hooked.
What has changed on Glasgow’s restaurant scene since then?
MM: There has been a huge explosion of culture since then in Glasgow. Back then it was mostly Scottish, Indian, Chinese and Italian restaurants. They are still going strong but there is so much more choice now. Nowadays, you have Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Lebanese, Russian and so many more restaurants and cultures that weren’t featured back then.
You have a magic wand. What one thing would most improve Scotland’s restaurants?
MM: Apart from changing the weather? I would like it if it was easier to source fresh foraged mushrooms from all local veg suppliers instead of having to track down a specialist supplier who charges through the nose for them. There is so many types of interesting mushrooms that are not available for most of the year. I feel if these were available with no inconvenience or extra cost then they would feature more in other restaurants.
Is there any food you hated as a kid but love now?
MM: Yes olives! I hated these as a kid. Obviously, as a kid, your palate won’t like as powerful a flavour but now my palate has evolved I really enjoy a good olive.
What is your favourite ingredient to work with?
MM: I really love to use fresh ginger when cooking. It has a heat in it as well as being fragrant and punchy.
What do you like to eat on a night off?
MM: I mostly like to eat Malaysian food on my days off but I also love a bit of traditional and rustic home cooking that the whole family will enjoy .
Which chef has inspired you?
MM: I would say at the moment John Torode. I like how he travels the world getting involved with local people and their cultures. He takes ideas and inspiration from what would be classed as normal people with street stalls etc and puts his own spin on it to create something amazing.
Is there anything you don’t like cooking with?
MM: Yes actually there is: Munster cheese is the most potent and smelly ingredient I’ve ever worked with.
Is there anything you couldn’t eat?
MM: Yes definitely the same as the last question! I was stupid enough to taste the most disgusting thing I’ve ever worked with, and yes, it tastes as bad as it smells. Munster… no thanks!
What has been the most exotic thing you have eaten?
MM: Panang curry I would have to say. I had the pleasure of eating this absolute delight two nights in a row when I was in Bo Phut, Koh Samui. It is everything you could ever want from a curry. It’s spicy, sweet, tangy and fragrant. It’s exquisite!
What gadget/utensil can’t you work without?
MM: Well that’s simple, my knives obviously. Without these no prep would get done.
Ketchup or Maldon sea salt?
MM: Is this really a question? 99% Maldon salt but a small bit of ketchup goes down nicely with my French toast.
You can get anyone in the world to cook you a meal. Who will it be?
MM: I would probably say Michael O’Hare. I like how theatrical his food looks and I would be very intrigued to taste his creations.
Apart from your own establishment, where do you like to eat out?
What is the best thing about being a chef?
MM: The best thing about being a chef is when you get compliments and tips from your customers. Compliments give you a good boost and tips get the beers in for the team at the end of a long day.
And the worst?
MM: Definitely the unsociable hours and the fact that you work most weekends.
Have celeb chefs been a good or bad thing on the whole?
MM: Celeb chefs are great for inspiration and entertainment but they don’t show the long days, hard graft and pressure behind the job. This is bad for normal chefs as your customers never truly understand how a kitchen really works and all the time and effort that goes in to each dish.
What’s been your worst kitchen disaster?
MM: I was just a commis chef, eager and full of energy. I thought I was helping out the kitchen porter by filling the freshly cleaned deep fat fryer with oil. I didn’t know the valve hadn’t been closed and all the oil I poured in poured straight back out all over the floor. The kitchen was a disaster zone all day!
Who cooks at home?
MM: I cook and my fiancée does the dishes. No exceptions.
You’re preparing a special meal for your partner. What’s cooking?
MM: Pan-seared scallops, cauliflower purée, curried apple crisps and white truffle oil.
What is in your fridge at home?
MM: Rib-eye steak, pork chops, potatoes, carrots, peppers, onions, chilli, garlic, coriander, ginger, eggs , bacon, butter, spinach, mayonnaise, cheddar, mustard and pickles.
What has been your most memorable meal?
MM: I would have to say the panang curry In Koh Samui. Afterwards me and my fiancée chilled with some cocktails on the idyllic beach and watched the sunset. Definitely a memory I will always treasure.
Tell us your daftest customer complaint?
MM: A few months ago a customer complained the soup du jour was too hot. It’s not like it was gazpacho!
Who would win in a fight. Heston Blumenthal or Gordon Ramsay?
MM: Ha ha ha! Ramsay obviously he is a Glaswegian after all. That’s like an el matador being Heston and Ramsay being the bull. There’s only so much trickery the el matador gets away with before the bull gets its man.