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The Caterer

Mark Hix

21 September 2006
Mark Hix

Overall ranking: 70 (new entrant)

Chef ranking: 15

Mark Hix is the chef-director of Caprice Holdings, a group that embraces some of London's most enduring and popular restaurants.

Hix has overseen a line-up of landmark London eateries through two changes of ownership. They include the Ivy, Le Caprice, seafood restaurants J Sheekey and Scott's, the Italian Daphne's, the Vietnamese Bam-Bou, and two Rivington Grills.

He is also responsible for the group's events catering arm, recently renamed Urban Caprice, along with the new 120-seat Wentworth Grill that opened this year at the luxury Surrey golf club hotel under the auspices of its new owner, clothing tycoon Richard Caring.

Caprice Holdings was snapped up in 2005 by Caring, who then went on to buy the mid-market Signature Restaurants group which had itself acquired the Caprice stable back in 1998.

Mark Hix - Career guide
After favouring domestic science over metalwork in his fifth year, Hix went on to pursue a career in catering, completing his City and Guilds qualification at Weymouth College.

After joining the staff canteen at Hilton as commis chef, Hix worked for two years at Grosvenor House hotel under Anton Edelman and Vaughan Archer before moving on to the Dorchester under Anton Mosimann where he was promoted after a few months from commis chef to chef de partie.

Two years later, he joined small restaurant group Mr Pontacs as sous chef. Two months into the job, he was promoted at the age of 22 to head chef of the group's Candlewick Room restaurant after the previous incumbent left.

Hix quickly won a Michelin Red M for the Candlewick Room, the only restaurant in the City to hold this award.

After four years, Hix became head chef at Le Caprice, the historic venue that legendary restaurateurs Jeremy King and Chris Corbin had acquired in 1981.

When Caprice Holdings reopened the Ivy in Covent Garden in 1990, Hix became executive head chef for the group and oversaw all subsequent additions.

Mark Hix - What we think
Hix, who has become celebrated for his modern approach to British food, has played no small part in the phenomenal success of Caprice Holdings.

With the 998 reopening of J Sheekey, the formidable team of Hix, King and Corbin succeeded in restoring to glory three historic establishments that had dropped into decline since their creation between 1896 and 1945.

The potent mix of Hix's cuisine (which won both the Ivy and Le Cparice the now- discontinued Michelin Red M awards) and King and Corbin's creation of a discreet and sophisticated elegance made the restaurants some of the capital's first celebrity magnets.

The public loved them too. They have become regular fixtures in the Harden's guide top 10 restaurant awards and the jewel-in-the-crown Ivy reigned as London's favourite haunt for nine years until Chez Bruce toppled it from the top slot in 2005.

Caprice Holdings was bought in 1998 by Signature Restaurants, a group of mid-market Belgian and pizza restaurants founded by Luke Johnson in 1996.

The reopening of J Sheekey in 1998 coincided with Caprice Holdings' acquisition by Signature Restaurants, a group of mid-market Belgian and pizza restaurants founded by Luke Johnson in 1996 as the Belgo Group.

Hix's role as chef-director expanded in 2000 when Caprice Holdings took over the management of Daphne's, Bam-Bou and the Morrocan Pasha restaurants. Hix also teamed up with Caprice Holdings managing director Des McDonald to open their own Rivington Grill in Shoreditch in 2002 as an independent venture.

The following year Hix oversaw the relaunch of events catering arm, Caprice Events, which was launched in 1995 but wound down when Signature took over.

Things have hotted up since Caring bought Caprice Holdings in June 2005 for an estimated £31m. In July 2005, Caring added Scott's, the landmark fish restaurant, to the Caprice stable and, in December, he snapped up Hix's own Rivington Grill, along with a second branch that opened in Greenwich in January 2006. Hix is keen to expand the brand to six outlets.

December 2005 also saw the sale of Pasha to Algerian-born Tony Kitous, owner of London's Levant and Levantine restaurants, and the acquisition of events production and catering company Urban Production, which was merged with Caprice Events to form Urban Caprice.

In January 2006, Caring unveiled a new restaurant, the Wentworth Grill, at his luxury golf club and hotel in Surrey manned by staff from the Ivy and Le Caprice. It is believed that Caring also plans to export the Ivy to New York's Broadway.

Hix has also found the time to participate in extracurricular activities such as TV appearances, consultancy work in Barbados, and cookery demonstrations. He was one of the team of celebrity chefs who devised recipes for the better hospital food initiative launched in 2002 under the chairmanship of Loyd Grossman.

Hix has also proved to be a prolific and award-winning pen-wielder. His regular column in the Independent's Saturday magazine won him the Glenfiddich award for Best Newspaper Cookery Writer in 2003 and, in 2005 he was voted Best Cookery Writer by the Guild of Food Writers.

His books have included recipes from the Ivy (with critic AA Gill) and Le Caprice, Eat Up (for children and babies), British, Fish etc and The Simple Art of Food and Wine.

Mark Hix - Further information

Caprice Holdings official website

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