morel wild garlic risotto - Daisy WIngate-Saul

Fire + Wild – the nomadic dining and cooking experience to get you outdoors

Imagine an opportunity where you can go on a peaceful foraging walk through the woods, soaking in the calming atmosphere as you learn all about the habitat surrounding you. Fire + Wild is the ultimate dining and cooking experience to get you outdoors. You can watch the squirrels collect nuts in the trees above your head. Step over wild mushrooms and herbs sprouting out of the soil. As you turn the corner, wood is burning and the smell of smoked fish fills your nostrils. Then, you take your seat in the open air restaurant to dine on fine food. You are completely succumbing to the environment that it came from. 

Fire + Wild is an outdoor dining and foraging experience. They cook hyper-seasonal dishes using wild food, fish and game over fire. I had the privilege of talking to the chef and founder Mark all about his nomadic history and love of nature which inspired him to create such a unique food adventure experience. 

trout-cedar-Daisy-Wingate-Saul

Where it all began

Mark’s story all began when he grew up on a farm in Lancashire. He was immersed in the countryside from a young age, shooting air rifles with his brother or watching David Attenborough documentaries. He was always drawn to ancient tribal culture, natural history, and anything that involved the idea of living off-grid or off-land. It is this that he defines as his spiritual home. 

Mark’s teenage years and young adult years were absorbed with music. He played in bands before running a club in Camden – he returned to his country ways in tranquil Lancashire. He tells me he wanted a change in lifestyle; to dismantle his diet and reconstruct it by eating organic meat and veg. His love of hunting for organically sourced food became something of functionality rather than hobby. The romantic imagery of returning to farm land, eating clean, and improving his lifestyle does not end there. Mark met a girl who had family in France, and he went mushroom picking with her dad. From there, he was hooked. Food became an educational resource. 

Developing foraging skills

Back in England, Mark was keen to develop his skills in the foraging department. He reached out to people to teach him more. With a ‘teach yourself’ mentality, he met a micro-ologist who taught a couple of courses to Mark before they became mates. All the questions were asked, and books read. Two years of travelling in a converted camper van were spent learning about foods. These years were also filled with hunting, and connecting with experts in their field to build Mark’s knowledge. It became an obsessional passion. A passion which is transpired through Fire + Wild. 

Wild food consists of anything that is not farmed, growing and living naturally. This can consist of game animals – deer, rabbits, squirrels, boar – but also wild herbs, mushrooms, nuts and berries. These are the sort of ingredients you can expect to tuck into at Fire + Wild’s experiences. The ‘fire’ element refers to their kitchen which uses no gas or electricity. It is an off-grid restaurant where everything is cooked over fire. This primal method of cooking and eating food relates back to Mark’s curiosities into ancient tribes. It is a low impact way of connecting food with the land and using the resources around us. In turn, we too as consumers and diners, are reconnected to nature.

Grilled pears – Daisy Wingate Saul

Fire + Wild experiences on offer 

There are two ways to experience Fire + Wild. The first is the dining experience, the second is a learning experience. While the motivation of the food and cooking is nomadic, primal and tribal, the dining itself is high-end. There is a juxtaposition between luxury and the surreal. “The concept that intrigued me”, Mark tells, “is that I have seen other people cooking over fire. Well known fire cooking chefs like Francis Mallman in Argentina make more rustic, not so refined stuff in terms of presentation”. However, “fine dining has always captured my attention. We do a tasting menu – small plates – usually 5-7 dishes with a focus on artistic presentation and a wow factor.”

Perhaps, you are keen to learn more about foraging and wood-fire cooking. Fire + Wild also offers the opportunity for customers to learn some key skills and become even more immersed in the experience. This option involves a walk through the forest, some game prep (learning how to prepare a wild bird for cooking or fish for over fire), the basic techniques of using fire, plus composing two or three dishes you then get to eat. You go through the journey from scratch. You cook the sauce, cook the meat, plate it up, and tuck into your very own creation. Alongside the food, there are wine pairings, mostly local. After all that adventuring, what is better than a Sussex merlot under the trees and the stars? 

Offered is also the choice to do an offsite experience, especially locally in Sussex. You can book Mark and his team to come to you and deliver an experience at your chosen location. The perfect treat for a back garden wedding, or to complete a campfire with mates. 

cooking wood pigeon – Daisy Wingate-Saul

Creating the menu

When I ask Mark how difficult it is to create the menu, he says this is the easy part. “The dishes are a storytelling of season and habitats’ ‘ he states. “I love putting ingredients together that make sense”. The squirrel croquettes with hazelnut aioli are a perfect example of ‘what grows together, goes together’, or vice versa. Everything is a story of time, place and location. 

A favourite ingredient however is mushrooms, linking back to the initial fascination. Mark defines them as “bizarre, other worldly life forms on the floor that taste incredible”. I too, even knowing nothing about wildfire cooking, can understand his fascination with something like truffle for instance, which is the “most highly priced, most expensive and delicious food on the planet, and it is dug out of the ground.” It goes to prove that some of the most beautiful things are literally right there beneath our feet, part of the Earth we inhabit. 

Taking Fire + Wild abroad

mexico – Monty Tremlett

Fire + Wild has been Mark’s blood, sweat and sacrifices for nearly five years now. He is clearly just as passionate about this unique wonderland as ever, but there are plenty more exciting things coming his way. As I am speaking to Mark, he is in Mexico, travelling and enhancing his knowledge on food and landscape even more. His days are currently consumed by fishing for mahi mahi and cooking with ingredients he has never worked with before. “I am keen to start putting what I do on an international level” he tells me, off to Greece in March too to put Fire + Wild on a mountain. There are lots of exciting projects occurring in the pipeline as Fire + Wild, really, has only just begun. 

Even without packing a bag and sailing overseas, Fire + Wild is still reaching international audiences via the world of Instagram. It is here where Mark gets to capture and share the essence of his experiences through photos and film. Photography, Mark explains, allows the reality of things to be snapped up in the moment. During COVID, all he could do was be on the road and capturing things. Their visual branding is strong – rustic, Autumnal tones – and encapsulates the wild as home. 

This is what Fire + Wild is all about: “taking the people into the heart of where the food is coming from”. It is an experience designed to create a connection between people, food, and nature. 

Find out more or book your experience at www.fireandwild.co.uk/

mussels arisaig – Daisy Wingate-Saul

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