Mark Holland is one of the primary talents at NW5’s most famous food pub, so it was no surprise that he made it to finals week in the latest series of MasterChef: The Professionals, which aired in December on BBC2.
Where did you grow up?
In Harrogate, Yorkshire. I moved to London four years ago and now live in Camden.
How did you start cooking?
It definitely runs in my family. My grandmother was an amazing cook, and I have some very fond memories of her teaching me when I was young. Also, my father owned a well-known restaurant in Harrogate for many years. I started my career as a kitchen porter at a family friend’s place, and then worked my way up from there.
Who have you worked with?
Fortunately some fantastic chefs throughout my career. A huge part of my training came from working at The Box Tree, a Michelin starred restaurant in Ilkley. It was an extremely high-pressured and hardworking job – but one I believe has made me into the chef I am today.
When did you join The Bull & Last?
Four years ago; I’m now the sous chef.
What’s best about it?
The people really make the place. Everyone is incredibly passionate and enthusiastic about what they do. We’re all supportive of each other and take great pride in delivering the best of the best for our customers. We love developing and discovering new dishes, and sit down each month with all members of staff and taste-test the menu, as well as talk though new additions and changes. Everyone has a great sense of humour here, too.
So What was the experience on MasterChef like?
The opportunity to cook for Marcus Wareing and Monica Galetti is definitely a career highlight. To hear them give positive feedback about my dishes was incredible – but it was insanely stressful as well. The calibre and talent of the other chefs on the show is extremely high, so it became more and more challenging to keep pushing myself to that next level.
What was it like when you failed the first test?
I felt absolutely gutted. Serving just a bowl of custard to Marcus and Monica wasn’t my shining moment. Having watched the show every year everyone knows how difficult it is to get through the first test, however nothing can prepare you for that moment where it happens. The nerves really do jangle. I just had to put it behind me, and prove to the judges why I wanted to be on the show.
Did you make any friends with others in the final twelve?
Yes. There’s a great sense of comradery between all the chefs – and we’re now all very supportive of each other.
What do you plan to do next?
I hope to run a gastropub or restaurant in the future. It’s been a great passion of mine to open my own place and being on MasterChef: The Professionals has really given me the confidence to pursue this. I love the feeling of a cosy, relaxed pub serving amazing food.
What tips would you have for future pro chefs on the show?
Just be yourself – and try and channel the nerves into your cooking.