The Fork Life: I know Mark is your first name but is the meaning behind Gas Mark Six?
GasMarkSix: When I first started blogging in 2013, I wanted a name that sums up my vision for my site. I first got into cooking by baking cakes for family and friends, using the skills and recipes my grandma taught me. I used to pour over her old cookbooks the temperature would always be in Celsius and Gas Mark, so gas mark six would be the temperature we baked at (180C). A close friend and I discussed the idea, and the name fitted perfectly.
TFL: Being a graphic designer by trade, what was your inspiration for starting the food magazine?
GMS: I have worked in magazines for over twenty years and have worked across many titles including Marie Claire, Elle and the launch of Grazia UK. My favorite part of the content to design was always the lifestyle sections. Food travel and interiors, having spent years creating and art directing other people’s shoots I wanted to showcase my creative skills both in recipes, travel writing, food styling and photography.
TFL: I love all the dishes you’ve styled. Which one is your favorite and why?
GMS: Styling is one aspect of my profession I love, from fashion, beauty celebrities and of course food, I love the creative process. I don’t have a favorite shot; I’m continually working harder to perfect the lighting, angles and styling. I shoot in daylight on my balcony; I tend to gauge a good shot by the likes and comments on Instagram.
TFL: What is your inspiration when creating these magnificent dishes?
GMS: I draw my inspiration from social media, travelling and dining out. Dubai has a vast food culture; you could eat out every day of the year and would never visit the same restaurant twice. A considerable part of my food inspiration is escalating food prices, so I’m always on the lookout for fresh food bargains, that’s part of the fun, discovering new ingredients and hidden store gems.
TFL: Do you plan to open a restaurant of your own someday?
GMS: I have been asked that question so many times! I don’t have any immediate plans, but I have always wanted to open a sandwich bar or deli. I think I would love trying new recipes and getting direct feedback from customers and an excellent place for good gossip.
TFL: Since Dubai is such a cultural melting pot, what would you be serving if I were to come to one of your dinner parties?
GMS: Assuming you don’t have any special food requirements, defiantly a fish dish, I have different stores I go to for ingredients across the city. Maybe a whole grilled spicy humor, seasoned with Caribbean spices. Served with fried plantain, my special coleslaw recipe and perhaps a creamy mac and cheese.
TFL: Which ethnic food do you think is underrated right now?
GMS: There have been a lot of food trends in the UAE, forget smashed avocados, four years ago when I came to the city Caribbean restaurants didn’t exist. Now its popularity has gone sky high since two restaurants have opened in the city, both are booked out every night offering traditional food from West Indian chefs. This style of cuisine had been ignored, however now it’s an established part of the Dubai food scene.
TFL: What are some ingredients you have discovered during your travels that are now a “must have”?
GMS: During the ‘cooler’ months Dubai has markets which have grown in popularity, I’m a regular at the Friday markets, a spice preparation I love is ‘Shatta’, a smoked red chili paste, and it’s slightly sweet, spicy with a smoky taste. I use it as a marinade for chicken or fish; sometimes I’ll try a dollop to spice up some mayo or add a kick to a stir-fry. Another in pandan, a longleaf herb, not too pleasant in smell but it's an essential ingredient when cooking Sri Lankan dishes.
TFL: I love that you say “sharing a recipe is like sharing a best-kept secret”. Can you expand on that?
GMS: I still use the same Victoria sponge recipe my grandma taught me when I was eight, I’ve scribbled recipes down on paper, sent them as an SMS or even talk a friend through on a video call. People have also shared recipes they have been using for years, which have been passed on from their moms, sisters or a cousin. I think it the fact that they are tried and tested recipes that always work! I get calls all the time trying to solve a kitchen crisis remotely.
TFL: What is next for GasMarkSix?
GMS: Where does GMS go next, good question? I’m currently working on the next issue of my digital magazine; gasmarksix, I’ll soon be launching a weekly column for Gulf News’ Tabloid magazine sharing food tips and recipes. I would like to keep working on new recipe ideas and seeing where it takes me? I would love to do a cookbook in the future that would be my dream.
TFL: Thank you for Chopping it Up with me chef!
GMS: This was fun! Thank you!
Check out GasMarkSix's Instagram page, but be sure to eat before you do! Everything looks delicious!