Chef Mark Sargeant is joining Monica Galetti and John Campbell to cook at this year's fundraising dinner for Hospitality Action, set to take place at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge hotel's Brasserie Joël on 25 Feburary. He talks to Hannah Thompson about the importance of giving back
What does it mean to you to be part of this Hospitality Action event?
A great deal. Everyone in hospitality works hard, but not everyone is as fortunate as Monica, John and me. Hospitality Action helps people with a wide range of problems, from addiction to illness to serious injury. Without it, thousands of people every year would have nowhere to turn.
How did you become involved this year?
Monica, John and I all work with BaxterStorey, and when they approached us with the suggestion of working together for such a good cause, we all said yes straight away. It's a very new relationship, and I hope to be involved in many ways, and in particular working with and training the young staff.
Any competitiveness as to how much you're hoping to raise?
That would be telling! Nathan Outlaw, Simon Hulstone and Eric Lanlard took part in the last Hospitality Action chef dinner and raised over £20,000. If we can match that, we'd be delighted.
How did you decide who would cook which course?
To keep things fair the dishes were randomly allocated. I was really pleased to be given the main course as it's something I could get my teeth into. We all decided on the menu together to ensure everything flowed well.
What will you be cooking?
Braised pork cheek and black pudding, steamed suet pudding with wild garlic, smoked bacon and leeks. I chose something hearty for winter. I hope everyone comes along feeling very hungry!
How will you share the prep for the dinner on the night?
We will all pretty much take care of our own courses, but will certainly be on hand to help each other. Cooking in a new environment will be the biggest challenge. Brasserie Joël has been really accommodating, but when you're in a new place everyone needs to pull together.
How will your main course reflect your own personal cooking style?
What was the input from executive chef Walter Ishizuka at Brasserie JoÁ«l?
He has been very generous and allowed us free rein of his kitchen. He approved our menu choices and will prepare the evening's canapés so he's spoiling everyone.
How do you balance running your restaurants with your other roles, such as being the ambassador for Young National Chef of the Year?
For me, the industry I work in is much more than just a job - it's a career for life. I have to pay the rent, of course, and so find myself very busy with my day-to-day business, but I'm also mindful that we need to build for the future.
How would you summarise the role that Hospitality Action plays in the industry?
Sometimes, all it takes is a very small change in circumstances to tip the balance and turn a manageable situation into an unmanageable one. An extended illness such as cancer can lead to a drop in pay, other circumstances such as a relationship breakdown, bereavement or redundancy can also put a strain on the household budget. The charity strives to keep their support relevant to the industry. It receives no government funding, so it's important we all help.
What other plans do you have more generally for your career?
My choice to leave Morden & Lea [Sargeant's restaurant, which he left in January 2016] was so that I could focus on my other projects. I am currently working on a very exciting high street brand of my own and am also about to open the Smokehouse, my fish and chip shop, in Macau, and then hopefully more in China too.
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