Mark Hartstone is chef-patron of the six-bedroom La Fosse in Cranborne, Dorset, with his wife Emmanuelle. He tells Lisa Jenkins how he swapped a life as a geologist for that of a full-time chef and bed and breakfast owner
I did a degree in geology and had a job creating a browser database for the oil industry. I then did half of a petroleum engineering masters degree.
In January 2000 a headache at work turned into a migraine at the thought of spending my working life in front of a computer. I'd worked in kitchens for beer money at university, so I knew I loved the camaraderie, and I was brought up eating home-grown produce. It seemed the only sensible solution was to become a chef.
Where did you learn your skills?
I did a course at Bournemouth and Poole College while working full-time in the kitchen of a local hotel.
You've had some excellent stages at various places; how did you secure them?
I was determined to get some experience at a renowned kitchen, and working with Pierre Chevillard at Chewton Glen opened up the opportunity to do stages at the likes of Belmand Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, L'Ortolan and with Stéphane Carrade at Chez Ruffet in France. I spent the first five years of my career working for free during my holidays in top kitchens around the world, including Fiskekompaniet, a restaurant in Norway in the Arctic Circle.
What role does your wife Emmanuelle have in La Fosse?
My wife studied hotel management in Germany and has worked in various five-star hotels in Germany, England, Boston and San Francisco.
We met at Chewton Glen, where she was a senior manager. She went on to be general manager at the Montagu Arms Hotel in Beaulieu. She takes care of front of house, accounting, housekeeping and interior design.
You won the Dorset Chef of the Year Award last year and were cited for your use of local ingredients - is this your primary criteria for your menus?
Yes, that, the quality of the products and I want to support small producers where possible.
Are you involved in many competitions and events?
I do lots of local chef demonstrations, often with Dorset Food and Drink and the Craft Guild of Chefs. I am a judge at the World Cheese Awards and the Great Taste Awards and I've won a few competitions, including the Norwegian Seafood Recipe Challenge, Dorset's Best Recipe, Dorset's' Best Cheese Board and Dorset Magazine's Best Chef of the Year in 2015. We've also been four times runner-up for the Dorset Restaurant of the Year.
Have you got any development plans for the business this year?
Yes, we're installing a grillkota - it's a wooden hut with a barbecue and seating inside. It will be a great addition for our house takeovers and a different angle for the restaurant and for sporting events.
We also offer walking holidays from La Fosse and provide guests with a lovely packed picnic lunch.
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