Name: Mark Dodson
Pub Company: Masons Arms, Knowstone
Job title: Owner & Head Chef
Tell us about your career path:
I trained at Colchester Catering College for 3 years and left with a diploma aged 21. My first job was as a Commis Chef at the Portman Hotel in London. A year later, I moved on to a similar role at the Old Court House hotel in the Channel Islands to expand my horizons. I was later offered a job as a Sous Chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant Le Talbooth in Devon for a couple of years. At the restaurant, I was introduced to a different standard and style of cooking, providing customers with that little bit extra.
I was eager to work for The Waterside Inn in Bray, as I was blown away by the food, and managed to persuade Head Chef Michel Roux to take me on as a Commis Chef. Within a few years, I had worked my way up to Head Chef and remained there for over a decade. During the 1980s-90s many chefs started to push the boundaries of traditional cooking, which inspired me to be more experimental and creative with my own. I decided to embark on a new challenge at the Cliveden Country House Hotel in Berkshire, where I headed up a team of 30 chefs for over 3 years.
Having accumulated a wealth of knowledge and experience, I realised I wanted to run my own business and bought a freehold property, The Masons Arms in Knowstone, in 2005.
What is a typical day in your role like?
Every day is a different challenge, but I enjoy running my own business as I have more control. Although I know I need to get a certain amount of work done each week, I can decide how much I do each day and when.
Some of my daily tasks include cooking lunch and dinner, managing staff, dealing with online bookings and emails, researching new dishes and talking to customers, which is nice, as most of the feedback I get from them is very positive.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of your role?
It has to be cooking of course! It’s great when we have a really busy service, the adrenaline is rushing and the last order goes out and we know that we did our best. I also enjoy helping the young people who work for me learn and develop useful skills.
What do you love about being a pub chef?
I love working within the pub sector. Times have moved on from just microwaving pasta, we now provide fine dining in a friendly and relaxed environment and this will only increase in popularity over time. Pub chefs are increasingly well-respected and as an industry we’re growing with excitement through trade support, such as the introduction of more training and apprenticeships to help recruit new talent, and awards that recognise the great work that we do already.
If you could give one good reason why a young person should become a pub chef what would it be?
You can end up owning your own business; the sky’s the limit!
What do you think the pub sector has to offer young people?
The industry offers opportunities to everyone who truly wants them and allows chefs to express themselves in what they choose to cook, there is no set format in a pub.
What are the most important skills that a young person needs to succeed as a pub chef?
I think first and foremost you need to enjoy cooking. You also need to be enthusiastic, dedicated and be prepared to work very hard.
What are your career plans for the future?
I’m happy with the way things are going but I don’t like to settle, so I’m constantly looking for ways to improve the business.