Mark Perkins is the Executive Pastry Chef of Rosewood London, a hotel well known for their incredibly detailed and artistic pastries, taking its inspiration from the latest exhibitions happening at galleries in London featuring the work of renowned artists such as Van Gogh, Picasso and Yayoi Kusama. We had the honor of speaking to Chef Perkins, who talked about his creative process including the use of drawings and sketches, which he sees as the blueprint in which every culinary artistic adventure begins.
Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself, and how the Art Afternoon Tea started?
I am the Executive Pastry Chef of Rosewood London, responsible for producing all delicacies for the hotel’s 308 bedrooms, 200 seats in Holborn Dining Room and the luxurious Mirror Room’s contemporary afternoon tea, as well as constantly creating thoughtful personalised amenities for our guests. I also curate an everchanging pastry offering for events held at the hotel, making bespoke delicacies for up to 350 people. I have been at the property for 19 years and oversaw the transition from the Mariott brand into the first flagship property for the Rosewood Hotels and Resorts new brand nine years ago.
At Rosewood London we like to think outside of the box, and we wanted to stand out where our afternoon tea was concerned. The beauty of the Mirror Room deserved something spectacular when it comes to afternoon tea. I love art, it is a passion of mine but it also is a foundational pillar of the hotel with beautiful artworks adorning the walls. We also embody the philosophy of Sense of Place whereby we take inspiration in our work from what is happening in our city around us, with London being such an art hub globally, it all just made sense – the idea for Art Afternoon Tea was born!
Yours has been named the best contemporary afternoon tea in the UK. What do what do you think sets you apart?
We are very honored to receive such recognition for our afternoon tea, the concept has proved extremely popular, taking it from an average of 15 covers on a Saturday we are now servicing 150. What sets our afternoon tea apart is the detail we go into when creating the cakes, they aren’t just a visual representation of the artist and their work, but they embody their personality and traits. I spend hours researching the artists life and history and see how I can incorporate this into the guest’s experience.
We also serve our afternoon tea in a unique way, we present the cakes within a vitrine as if they are framed like a piece of art, rather than the usual 3-tier cake stand. Our menus show sketches of the cakes that I have drawn showing the key ingredients. We also like to add a bit of theatre, for the Kusama-inspired afternoon tea we designed a mirrored box so guests could create their very own infinity mirror room for their cakes, inspired by the artists work at the Tate Modern.
Pastry is in many ways considered a form of art, the link between art and pastry is very clear in your work. When did you start making that link in your work and when did you start seeing yourself as an artist?
As a Pastry chef, the connection with food and art is very relevant, people eat with there eyes so creating something that looks attractive, tastes great and is creative, is what I strive to achieve. Art has always been a great passion of mine and I have always enjoyed drawing and painting from a young age, being able to bring this to life in the Art Afternoon tea Pasties is very rewarding. Connecting our afternoon tea to the Vibrant art scene in London, came about 7 years ago, when I was trying to create a concept for the afternoon teas, with the collaboration of artists and pop up art displays within the hotel the connection was born. Art takes so many different formats, that I knew this would be a never ending and unlimited concept for our tea service, bringing colour, movement and life to the pastries.
Is sketching and drawing part of your culinary/artistic process?
Absolutely, I love to sketch out the cakes before I begin to make them. You can see them in each menu that we have done. It not only helps me put my ideas on paper but creates a blueprint for how I will make it out into a pastry. Recreating a piece of Rodin’s sculptural work out of chocolate isn’t for the faint hearted!
Your latest work at the art afternoon tea has been inspired by Yayoi Kusama. What is in her work did you feel drawn to and inspired by?
Yayoi Kusama’s work and life are both very inspiring. I love the simplistic way a simple dot can be transformed into many different art forms and her creativity and thinking outside the box attitude is inspiring, her use of colours and reflections draw you into her art work and it takes you to somewhere other than where you are. This is all drawn from her own mental state and creativity.
How have you kept your creativity flowing, especially during the pandemic lockdowns, when your restaurant was closed?
I love to cook with my children, they have the best imagination, and it certainly was something to keep us busy throughout the lockdowns. We also shifted our focus internally to help bring the Rosewood London associates together at a time that was incredibly isolating spreading love and joy. We hosted online pancake and pastry workshops to lift spirits and improve mental wellbeing engaging and inspiring our team.
For our guests, there were so many missed celebrations throughout the pandemic, we wanted to create a moment from the Mirror Room that could be enjoyed at home. We designed larger celebration cakes that took inspiration from the works of Kusama and Banksy so people could celebrate at home.
What is your favorite exhibition to date?
At present Kusama and Van Gogh are the two stand out exhibitions, but there are so many creative and diverse art exhibitions around London. I am very interested to visit the Tate Modern’s Surrealism Beyond Borders, which is going to be very inspiring, especially for our next collection. I also like to draw inspiration from museums, exhibitions, Nature and everyday objects which gives me so many creative ideas.
What’s next on the menu for the Art Afternoon Tea?
I am excited to be embarking on my next challenge of recreating some of Salvador Dali’s iconic works, taking inspiration from the upcoming Surrealism exhibition at the Tate Modern. After the few years we have had it all feels quite surreal and I would like to instill some magic and wonder into the afternoon tea experience. Expect the unexpected. Launching April 2022.
Head over to the Rosewood Hotel website for more information about Art Afternoon Tea and how to book your table.
If you were inspired by this interview with Mark and would like to find out more about him and his practice, head to his Instagram here.
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