Speaking to the MICHELIN Guide Digital, the 52-year-old says: “I still have the restaurant bug. Opening restaurants is like a disease, but I am enjoying this break. For 17 years, I have developed my craft in a small restaurant without much distraction. But now, it is time to travel a lot more and build up a body of ideas and experiences that will lead me to open my next restaurant.”
When he is not flying, he is out at sea as a chef-consultant of Bistro By Mark Best, a modern Australian surf-and-turf restaurant that offers seafood and steak on board the Genting Dream Cruise. Recently, the restaurant’s menu underwent its first overhaul in two years to reflect the 1,600-room cruise’s new berthing location in Singapore. New dishes that have been inspired by the island’s multicultural influences include the lobster rendang, kingfish with finger lime and kiwi ceviche, and black cod poached in tomatoes with chillies.
We catch up with Best on his 100-seat restaurant out at sea.
1. What did you consider when you planned your new cruise menu?
I like to put in touches and food influences from my cooks. They come from all sorts of backgrounds; some are Malaysian, Punjabi and Sri Lankan. I get them to cook their hometown dishes and share them during staff meals to see how we can incorporate them on the menu. The lobster rendang dish was inspired by one of the cooks from Port Klang, who makes a good rendang.
2. What is the biggest challenge in running a cruise restaurant?
We are sea-based and the cruise visits ports every few days, so it is a crucial logistical exercise to establish supply lines for ingredients. I also try to bring in ingredients that I have used in my restaurants such as Murray cod, Batemans Bay oysters and lamb. Another issue is getting a sheer volume of ingredients. Every week, we pick up two tonnes of bananas that have their own room, 1.5 tonnes of chicken and 1.6 tonnes of cooking oil.
3. Which is your favourite port of call?
Georgetown in Penang has been one of the more memorable stops along the Genting Dream trip. The UNESCO site has a vibrant market scene. Some of my favourite dishes there include puri and assam laksa that has a sour kick from the tamarind and pineapple in the gravy.
4. What is the most epic cruise trip that you’ve been on?
The one cruise trip that always stays in my memory is travelling on the then newly completed Genting Dream from Bremerhaven port in Germany to Hong Kong two years ago. About 1,000 staff were on the cruise, which took three and a half weeks to sail through places such as France, Spain, Gibraltar, through the Suez Canal, Egypt and Africa. Seeing the sun rise over the desert or Suez Canal was incredible.
The cruise was travelling in a large convoy of ships that included air force gunships and helicopters to protect against piracy. When the cruise passed by Yemen and Somalia, it was travelling very quickly with all the lights switched off.
I learnt photography when I was in school so it was an interest that has been bubbling along. Now I focus on doing portraitures of chefs. They trust me, or stupidly so [laughs]. I don’t care how they look as long as the photos look good. I am not interested in taking photos of food, I like to capture an honesty from photos that tell a lot of a person’s character.