We talk to Mark Sargeant of Oxwell & Co.
Not only did he give us the scoop on how he started in the kitchen, he also taught us a thing or two about the art of cooking. Best of all – we managed to charm him into going on a date with us! (We know!)
Obviously you’re super talented and ultra accomplished! How did you first get started cooking and why did you decide to go pro?
Ha, I’m sure not everyone thinks that but my mum does for sure! I wanted to be a chef from the age of 8 and started working part-time in kitchens at 13 washing dishes at the weekends to earn pocket money. I soon moved into the kitchen and whilst the food was mostly frozen I still really enjoyed the environment and learnt some good knife skills. There was never any doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t go into this professionally.
What was it like working with Gordon Ramsay? We love what we see on TV, but we admit he sometimes scares us.
I worked with him for 13 years so he can’t be that scary can he! I had a great time during those years.
What are your philosophies when it comes to cooking? Is there anything that you would never do?
Simplicity is key. Don’t try to over fuss your food or put things on the plate for the sake of it. Always use the best ingredients and cook them well and you can’t go wrong.
What are you like in the kitchen?
I’m not in the kitchens anymore but when I was I like to think that I was firm but fair, a good motivator, and above all, a good teacher. In the early days I had my moments but soon realised that screaming and swearing at people takes more out of you and is definitely not the way forward anymore. Four of my current head chefs used to work with me at GR at Claridge’s years ago and I hope that is testament to how I treated them.
Why the decision to come and work in Singapore?
Singapore came to me, really. I have long been a fan of the place since I did some work for Singapore Airlines with Gordon and when I was approached about an opportunity out here I jumped at the chance.
How did you come up with the menu for Oxwell & Co.?
It wasn’t really my idea but came about from the area. We wanted to pay homage to the history of the building and a long time ago there was a well (still there) that was the only source of fresh water for the village. The locals would use an Ox and cart to bring the water to the village hence Oxwell. The Co just reiterates that this is about a company of people who make the place tick. Also Oxwell & Co sounds like an old British public house name which is what we are basing this around.
Any word on how you’re going to work with local produce?
We will use as much as possible and I know there isn’t much. I have been approached by a company that works with farmers for fantastic local fish and we are getting free range and additive free chickens from Malaysia. We are also talking to roof top farmers who will advise us what we can grow on our roof terrace so hopefully we can provide a small amount of our own herbs and salads (though definitely not enough for the whole restaurant). Other than that we will be looking for the best quality we can find.
Truth be told, we’re not the best cooks. But we’d love to get better! Any tips and tricks for cooking up great food?
Anyone can cook if they want to but you have to have the inclination. Always start with very simple recipes and maybe ones that don’t even involve cooking like salads. The most important part of cooking is the flavour so try and develop your palate first before anything else.
So… you’re new in town and we know our way around. Want to join us on a local food trail?
Yes I really do!!
Thanks for having us, Mark – and we’re holding you to that food trail!
All images taken by Suasti Lye of Suasti Lye Photography & Design.