Mark Kempson

Mark Kempson

After three years at The Square, working his way up through the ranks once again, Mark felt he couldn’t progress anymore and had a chat with Phil. Rather than seeing him go, Phil offered him the head chef role at another restaurant he was launching: Kitchen W8 in Kensington. It opened in 2009, and Mark has been there ever since (winning a Michelin star in his own right in 2011) – a seriously long stint in the world of hospitality.

‘I’ve stayed here because I was given the opportunity to treat the restaurant like my own,’ explains Mark. ‘There’s no need to go anywhere else – I really like the team, the food and the customers. Holding the Michelin star for so long is a testament to what we do here, so I’ve got no desire to change anything. That time might come in the future, perhaps when I want to change my lifestyle, but at the moment I’m really happy.’

Retaining a Michelin star for so long means you can’t rest on your laurels – and while the core focus of what Mark does has remained the same since opening, the food has evolved massively since that first service. ‘I think as you get older as a chef, your approach to cooking changes – it’s all about the ingredients you’re using. I think diners expect different things now too; it’s all about the whole package, not just the food on the plate. We have so many regulars which is a good sign that we’re doing the right thing – people come back again and again.’

There are always certain assumptions when it comes to Michelin-starred establishments, but Kitchen W8 has always retained its neighbourhood restaurant feel (albeit a neighbourhood restaurant in Kensington). The food has always been approachable, relaxed and simple on the plate, making the most of whatever is in peak season at any moment in time. And that’s how Mark plans to continue – nothing’s broken, so it doesn’t need fixing. ‘We’re a destination restaurant for some people because of the star, and a neighbourhood restaurant for our regulars, so it’s a nice formula. I see no reason why we’d need to change anything.’