Chef’s special : Mark Alston

Mark Alston, Executive chef, The Royal Yacht Britannia, Edinburgh


For 44 years it transported the Queen and the Royal Family to engagements around the world. Today The Royal Yacht Britannia is permanently moored at Leith, Edinburgh, where its stately rooms are available to hire for special occasions. Executive chef Mark Alston shares his food philosophy with SLTN.
How long have you been in the catering business?

I’ve been in the industry for 15 years. I started as a waiter in a Whitburn hotel, did hotel management at Napier University and then trained as a chef.

What’s your career highlight so far?
Taking on the executive chef’s position at The Royal Yacht Britannia after working here for four years.

How would you describe your food?
Classical British cuisine, using local Scottish ingredients wherever possible.

Why should someone visit your restaurant?
It’s a unique place and you can sense the regal atmosphere. Savouring a candlelit dinner in the state dining room, where the Queen once enjoyed entertaining, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most people.

Describe your staff
They are a great, hard-working team. We all pay attention to the details to ensure everyone has a great time. But we also have a lot of laughs.

What’s your favourite dish to cook at home?
I like to do something basic, perhaps a simple pasta dish.

Is there any food you dislike?
I think you have to enjoy all kinds of food. Tasting is a key part of the job. I’m not too keen on ultra-smelly cheeses, though.

Which is your favourite Scottish restaurant?
I live in Bo’ness and I enjoy going to the Chop and Ale House at Champany Inn, near Linlithgow, for a great steak.

What’s your favourite Scottish ingredient?
There are just so many. Scottish lamb, venison from the Highlands, beef from Orkney. There’s great seafood such as scallops and prawns. We’re pretty spoiled for choice in Scotland.

What’s a tip every chef should know?
Use the best ingredients you can afford. Don’t scrimp.

How do you relax outside of work?
I like spending time with my girlfriend. We live next to a farm and I relax by going shooting. I’m also renovating an old Porsche that I bought.

Who would you invite for your ideal meal and where would you go?
I think the Top Gear team with Jeremy Clarkson would be fun guests.