Chef of the Week: Mark Poynton, Chef Patron at Restaurant MJP at The Shepherds, Cambridge

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I have owned my current restaurant MJP at The Shepherds in Fen Ditton, Cambridge since June 1st 2020.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I fell into catering as a way of making money after dropping out of school, first being a waiter, then a chef. I was mentored by my first head chef Ian McDowall for three years, before working for Paul Kitching in Juniper.  After that I worked for Daniel Clifford where I spent eight and a half years helping to earn and maintain 2 Michelin stars before taking my first solo roll at Alimentum gaining 1 Michelin star. So, I’ve taken a bit from all those amazing guys.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Producing and making people happy with the food I make. Also helping to nurture the future of this amazing industry through groups like “A Passion To Inspire” etc.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Salt, acid and sugar.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
My induction stove built by Geoff and the amazing guys at Control Induction.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Simplicity and not messing about with food to much, which I’m grateful for!

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Not tasting the whole food process properly. Tasting a dish on a pass and eating a full version of a dish are two totally different things.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Autumn – there’s some amazing game, mushrooms, hedgerow and some amazing fish about also.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
None really and I don’t like to say a dish is a signature dish despite what customers might think.  Some dishes have been with me for a long time, like my apricot and almond Battenberg, or my seaweed cured salmon with caviar and buttermilk.

How do you come up with new dishes?
Tasting ingredients and what’s in season, then seeing how I can marry those two together without over complicating things.

Who was your greatest influence?
Mother nature!

Tell us three chefs you admire
Daniel Clifford, Alain Ducasse and Mark Birchall.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Mine! “It’s Just Food” will be released the first week of November and is available via

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Greig Young from the Northgate in Bury St Edmunds, Sam Carter from Restaurant 22 in Cambridge and Greg Anderson from Meadowsweet in Holt.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
I’ve not been to it yet, but I went to The Greenhouse in Dublin and that was epic, so it has to be Chapter One by Mickael VIljanen also in Dublin (which I’ve booked for Jan 22)!