MADE BY MEMBERS • June 2021
When it comes to the highest heights of hospitality (we’re talking 35,000 feet), no one’s quite as on it as Mark Brega. Formerly a development chef for British Airways, he’s now gearing up for the coveted role of executive head chef at the freshly minted Fairmont Windsor Park. Here, he lifts the lid on what his time at the airline taught him about creating unique culinary experiences and what lies in store for Fairmont guests…
How did your career get going?
As a young man, I started out in my home county of Suffolk, where I worked at Hintlesham Hall, a country house hotel, for two years. A wise chef there told me to get away from home and see what the industry had to offer, which is partly why I made the long drive down to Bath and joined The Royal Crescent Hotel, where I eventually worked my way up to head chef. I then moved to London and worked at Roux at the Landau at The Langham Hotel and The Lansdowne Club, before becoming executive chef at HSBC in Canary Wharf.
Did this mark the start of your career away from hotels?
My career was taking off again in a completely different direction, especially when I started as executive development chef for British Airways. I think working in this role will always be one of the highlights of my career – I was very proud to be creating food for an iconic British brand. Then in late 2020, I heard about the opening of Fairmont Windsor Park, this stunning hotel in Windsor, and knew that I wanted to be a part of the team creating something special from scratch.
What were your best moments working for British Airways?
For me, working for British Airways was a time of real self-development and creativity. I started as executive chef and progressed to customer dedicated executive development chef. There were so many highlights, but there was something special about creating my first dishes for First (including my Scottish salmon and crab cannelloni, salsify purée, marinated lobster, compressed apple and Thai shallot). But it’s the little things, too – from shaking up plating styles to designing signature sauces.
Scottish salmon, citrus curd and sea fennel from MOREISH
And what attracted you to the job at Fairmont Windsor Park?
As you can tell, I’ve always been proud of the places I’ve worked. First of all, Fairmont Windsor Park is owned by the Arora Group, which I respect hugely, and it will be operated by Accor and the Fairmont brand, so from that alone you know it will be an exceptional hotel. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to join the pre-opening team of a hotel of this calibre.
“You’re only as good as the last dish you served”
How different is it from your work at British Airways, day-to-day?
Working with British Airways was different to any job I’d had before. I was developing for around six months prior to ‘dish fly’, so I was constantly designing dishes out of season. It required a lot of research into food trends and products, looking at how food tasted depending on altitude and when reheated, making sure the quality could be maintained in larger volumes. Working at Fairmont Windsor Park, I am less behind the scenes, which is wonderful. I get to interact with guests which, in the end, helps me to deliver better experiences.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ll be taking with you to Fairmont?
The creative part of both jobs is similar, which I’m extremely happy about, as playing with food, designs and concepts is what I love doing the most. But I have taken a lot of learnings from my British Airways days – particularly when it comes to pushing for quality and systems that drive consistency. The airline has a lot of moving parts and they all have to work well together to achieve a result. The most important things, above all, are to listen to feedback and strive to be better. After all, you’re only as good as the last dish you served.
What kind of experience are you hoping to create for diners at the Fairmont Windsor Park?
I don’t want to give too much away – you’ll have to come and stay to get them all! – but we have seven different restaurant and bar venues in the hotel and each one is offering something unique, with little touches of personality that spark delight. One of the venues I’m really looking forward to is our Orchid Tea Room, which will host some awe-inspiring culinary feats on the most beautiful plates I’ve ever seen. I’m a pastry chef at heart and will always have a connection with this – and what could be more British than afternoon tea?
Which dish can you not wait for guests to try?
I would wager the corn-fed chicken, Maris Piper terrine, black garlic, pickled artichoke is going to become an iconic dish in 1215, our British speciality dining restaurant under Luke Fouracre. Another fantastic dish is the gin-cured Scottish salmon, citrus curd and sea fennel from MOREISH under Matyas Rigo, which will be a fusion of Middle Eastern and European cuisine. And, of course, I am so excited to see those first cake stands going out in our Orchid Tea Room.
Fairmont Windsor Park is set to open 1 August 2021.