In 2002, Marc Fosh became the only British chef to have gained a Michelin star in Spain, where he has lived for 20 years. He now runs three restaurants in Palma de Mallorca with business partner Robert Bragagnolo. He speaks to Kerstin Kühn
How has working abroad enhanced your career?
Stepping out of your comfort zone forces you to adapt and grow in so many ways. I still remember walking into Martín Berasategui's kitchen for the first time and realising that if I was going to survive, I not only had to prove that I could cook, I was going to have to learn a new language in record time. Overcoming these challenges makes you stronger. Living and working in Spain has also helped to define my style and philosophy as a chef, and I will always be grateful for that.
What do you like about working in Mallorca?
After all this time, I still find the local markets truly inspiring. We are blessed with some fantastic produce from both the very fertile soil, and the Mediterranean Sea. I also love the ever-changing scenery around the island. It's very green, has wonderful mountain ranges and some of the best coastline in the Mediterranean.
What could UK hospitality learn from Mallorca, with regards to people management?
The culture is different all over Spain and the work ethic can occasionally be frustrating. In general we do find dedicated, hard-working people. Spanish kitchens are not as competitive as British ones and, from what I remember, have a better atmosphere with a little less testosterone. Inspiring those around you and empowering them with knowledge is crucial anywhere to people management. Screaming and shouting simply does not work here, treating your team with respect and making sure they have a decent staff meal achieves a lot more.
What could Mallorca learn from the UK?
Mallorca has improved over the last 15 years, but it is still not as service-minded as it should be. It could learn to market itself better as too many people only see the island as a bucket and spade destination when the reality is very different. Mallorca is very cosmopolitan and that is now well reflected in the hospitality business here.
What advice would you give to anyone in the hospitality industry wishing to work abroad?
Learn the language as soon as possible as it is the key to your survival and long-term happiness. Also, you should make an effort to understand the local culture.
Do you plan to return to work in the UK?
After 20 years of living and working in Spain, I think there is no going back. Although I would love to open a restaurant in London.
What other aspects of working abroad would you like to share?
I remember being blown away by the simplicity and the lack of cream and butter when I first came to Spain. There is a Basque dish called "Bacalao Pil-Pil" where salt cod is poached in olive oil flavoured with a little garlic. The gelatine from the fish is emulsified with the olive oil to form a deliciously thick, translucent sauce. I was amazed how such great depths of flavour could be achieved with just two basic ingredients, salt cod and olive oil. From that moment on my whole cooking philosophy changed.
CV: marc fosh
Marc Fosh worked in London at the Greenhouse restaurant and the Chelsea Room at the Carlton Tower hotel before moving to Spain in 1991 to work under three-Michelin-starred chef Martín Berasategui.
He moved to Mallorca soon after and in 2002 gained a Michelin star at the Read's hotel restaurant in Palma de Mallorca.
In 2009, he opened Simply Fosh together with Robert Bragagnolo. Tasca de Blanquerna followed in 2010 and Misa Braseria in 2011.