Interview with Mark Tilling

Mark Tilling first hit our TV screens last spring when he and team mates, Helen Vass & Samantha Rain were crowned the winners of Bake Off Crème de la Crème 2016.

Having been a pâtissier and chocolatier for over 25 years, Mark has worked in many top hotels and restaurants including The Lanesborough on Hyde Park Corner in London, Lainston House Hotel in Winchester, Hotel du Vin Group in Winchester and Bristol and the Pave D’Auge in Normandy, France. During this time he cooked for several well-known figures such as President George Bush Sr, Cher, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and HRH Prince Edward. 

Mark has also racked up some impressive awards for his chocolate and pâtisserie work including; multiple gold and silver medals for his desserts and petits fours, double gold for his chocolate showpieces as well winning the UK Chocolate Masters competition from 2006 to 2008, and coming 12th in 2007 and 7th in 2009 at the finals of the World Chocolate Masters. 

I bumped into Mark recently when we were both demonstrating on the Cake & Desserts stage at Foodies Festival, where he was wowing the crowds with some amazing chocolate desserts and I managed to rope him into doing an interview for me 🙂  

How and why did you first get into working with chocolate?
Being a pastry chef I have always worked with chocolate one of the main ingredients of a pastry kitchen but over the past 15 years I’ve started working with it more, I love chocolate it’s a great ingredient that can be manipulated in all different ways

 Winning Crème de la Crème made you a household name and a bit of a favourite with the ladies! What was that like?
It was great to be crowned the winners with Sam and Helen – not sure I’m a household name but it was a great competition to do to show the public that all pastry chef are very talented and this program was a good benchmark to show what we can do.

What have you been up to since winning Crème de la Crème?
Life has been a bit crazy over the past year, of course. Still teaching at Squires Kitchen which is going from strength to strength and other little projects which has kept me busy.

How was the experience of writing a book?
It’s always a great experience writing a book; this one Mastering Chocolate took me just over a year to write it’s very hard work writing a book but now it’s done I am so pleased with it.

You teach at the Squires Kitchen School, what sort of courses do you teach?
We teach all kinds of courses at Squires from sugar craft to baking, chocolate and patisserie, I teach all the patisserie classes from fine French classics to one to five day chocolate classes on chocolates and truffles to showpieces to gourmet chocolate bars showing all different techniques.

What is your favourite dish that you’ve ever made and why?
I wouldn’t say I have a favourite dish but the best thing I have made is my chocolate showpiece at the world chocolate masters in 2009 it was on the theme of Haute Couture and I based my piece on a Haute Couture studio in Paris with its wooden floors to a mannequin wrapped with fabric, with pins and scissors alongside. It was placed 4th best showpiece over all.

Do you do much cooking at home or do you like to stay out of the kitchen when you’ve been in one all day?
I don’t do any baking or chocolate at home I do all of that in the week at work, but I do love to cook savoury things and I love it when we have a dinner party so I can go to town with it.

What is the one tool or piece of equipment that you couldn’t live without in your kitchen?
I love the Thermomix, it’s a mixer that also heats! It is great and does loads of other things, I love it that much I have one at work and one at home.

What have you got planned next?
I have lots of new things going on at Squires Kitchen over the next year new classes and really nice projects as well as a chocolate cruise in November and we will see what happens in between.

You can order Mark’s book ‘Mastering Chocolate’ here via the Squires Kitchen Shop and book a place on one of his courses on Mark’s website