Lobster, fizz and a fabulous time – the annual Lobster Ball promises to be all three when it takes place at Hardwick Hall Hotel, in Sedgefield, this Friday. We chat to executive chef Mark Bennett who’s in charge of cooking for the 1,400 guests
He’s the man responsible for prepping and cooking 700 lobsters and 1,400 starters and desserts for the annual Lobster Charity Ball – but Mark Bennett takes it all in his stride.
“I’ve been doing it for three years now so the numbers don’t phase me,” says Ramside Estate’s executive chef, who’s in charge of the food operation at Ramside Hall Hotel and Hardwick Hall Hotel.
Every year, Mark brings in a brigade of 14 chefs to tackle the event which is held at Hardwick Hall in Sedgefield, County Durham.
“We usually have a brigade of about five in the kitchen there so I bring in chefs who I know from my previous roles and we work with colleges, too. We prep for one day, then cook the next,” says Mark, formerly an executive chef at a number of sporting events including Silverstone race days, airshows and at York and Newcastle Racecourse.
“I don’t get nervous, I can’t afford to. I’m the one that has to be calm,” he laughs.
The renowned charity event in the North East’s social calendar – hosted by Ramside Estate’s owner John Adamson – sees people flock to indulge in the star of the show: a delicious lobster and fillet surf and turf.
“We never change the main course. That’s why people come,” says Mark, who gets his meat from George Bolam Foods, in Sedgefield, and the lobster from Hartlepool’s Hodgson Fish.
“We’ve been using the same suppliers since John’s mam and dad opened the doors to the hotels more than 20 years ago.”
When it comes to the Lobster Ball’s starter and dessert, Mark says he likes to “mix things up”.
At this Friday’s event, he and the brigade will be casually whipping up 1,400 pan-fried sea bass starters with soy essence glaze, smoked haddock and sweet pea risotto and a citrus hollandaise.
Dessert is salted caramel chocolate bar, mint jelly, stem ginger and a banana ice cream. “I like pushing the brigade and taking them out of their comfort zone,” says Mark.
The annual Lobster Ball 2017 is held in aid of Daisy Chain, which supports children with autism.
Haven’t got tickets to the Lobster Ball? Get them for the Oyster Festival instead, held at Hardwick Hall in September. https://hardwickhallhotel.co.uk