Kitchen spy: Mark Best

Search for ''minimalism'' in the dictionary and there ought to be a picture of Mark Best's kitchen, a place to make lovers of the sleek swoon and fans of detail erupt in hives. Best came to cooking at 25 after working as an electrician and quickly hit his straps, winning the Josephine Pignolet award for best young chef in the fourth year of his apprenticeship. He has a two-hatted fine diner, Marque, in Sydney, and a hatted bistro, Pei Modern, in Melbourne. His apartment in Sydney's Ultimo is in a converted wool store and he lives there with his wife, Valerie, and son, Ethan, 14.

My pantry

Ortiz anchovies for adding to stews, nicoise salads, pesto. Benedetto Cavalieri pastas for quick dinners. Sirena tuna for school lunch sandwiches. Sakata rice crackers. Dried white beans for minestrone or cassoulet. Joseph olive oil. Murray River salt, which I love for its clean flavour. Leblanc wine vinegar and La Vecchia Dispensa balsamic vinegar for dressings.

My fridge

Pyengana cheddar, Beurre d'Isigny butter from France, organic eggs, Farmer's Union Greek yoghurt, which I have with Goulburn Valley peaches as a late-night snack - a bit healthier than the cheese and wine I used to have late at night.

I'm drinking

I have about five single-origin Colombian Reservoir Street macchiatos through the day. I drink all kinds of teas from Jing Tea at night while I'm watching something trashy on TV. I like white wines, something aromatic. I'll just give the sommelier at work a challenge to choose something for me before I go home. I don't have any favourites. I get bored easily, so it changes all the time, but I have a Greco di Tufo from Italy at the moment.

My toolkit

Isomac coffee machine. AEG Pro combi steam oven - it is fantastic for its functionality. Even I use the recipe buttons. I was a Doubting Thomas for a long time because, hey, I'm a professional, but it really works, releasing steam at different times or switching elements. I even dry chillies in it. Thermomix, which I just use as a high-speed food processor. Silit pot for use on the induction cooktop. Cast-iron roasting dish, which I've had for a long time. Sabatier knife - it has been sharpened so much the blade's now half the original width. Microplanes for grating everything from nutmeg to parmesan.

I'm cooking

My last dinner at home, Ethan wanted tom yum soup, so we stopped at a Thai grocer on our way home from school and bought all the ingredients. Talk about hallucinogenic dreams that night. I'm sure they put magic mushrooms in the spice paste!

Most memorable meal

My first lunch at Arpege in Paris in the mid-'90s. It was a culinary epiphany and started me on the road as a chef. We had chaud-froid egg, which is warm egg with cold cream, quatre epices (spice blend) and sherry vinegar, followed by grilled oysters with various toppings, whole rabbit with the head, liver, kidneys all divided out, served with carrots from his garden. To finish, we had a whisky mille-feuille, and the spoon just fell through it to the plate, it was so light.


Michel Bras is one of my food heroes and his book is a constant source of inspiration. Otherwise, it's all about unusual ingredients, recently nightingale persimmons. Travel and eating street food is always another inspiration.

Secret vice

Cold baked beans, straight from the can.


Saturday-night tipple

I might have a Campari and soda or an Aperol spritz - something in the bitter spectrum.

Kitchen highlight

I love the aesthetic, the orientation towards the view and the expanse of bench space.


A decanter that was my Josephine Pignolet young chef of the year award from 1994.