Under the Grill: Mark Balarsky

AdLib has been a favourite fixture in Glasgow's city centre since it first opened in 1997, and the Americana-inspired bar and restaurant recently re-opened its Hope Street doors following an extensive interior refurbishment project. Dishing up AdLib's crispy fried chicken and juicy burgers is Head Chef Mark Balarsky, who joins us this week for Under the Grill.

What is your most memorable meal?

Falafel at the East Gate in Jerusalem, made by an old Arab sitting by a boiling pot of oil. He made the pitta and falafel and filled it with fantastic salads, harissa, and tahini sauce. It was simply delicious and such a memorable location.

What is your favourite kitchen tool/gadget?

A bar blender - it makes all the sauces smooth and vibrant, and you can make great cocktails at the end of the night.

What ingredient could you not live without?

Chillies - they add so much to the flavour of the dish. Whether they’re smoked, roasted or raw, they impart different complex flavours and can truly make a meal an experience.

If you could cook a meal for anyone (dead or alive), who would it be and what would you make?

If Rock giant Todd Rundgren and his band ever made it to Glasgow, I’d love to cook for them. I’d make them the best fried chicken in town.

What inspired each of the dishes on your menu for Ad Lib?

We’ve been making burgers, frying chicken, and toasting tacos for the last decade at Ad Lib. We really love American food and Americana. Each dish is made with joy and years and years of experience. I’ve learned so much after spending twenty years in kitchens and this menu from AdLib is the best yet.

Do you have a favourite dish from this menu? Which one would you recommend?

I’m really excited about the Queso Birria (three cheese quesadilla, pickled onion, slow braised beef and smoked chilli broth). It’s a bit of a thing on the West Coast of America just now and tastes fantastic. We’ve also introduced frozen custard with our new ice cream machine. A classic dessert.

What is your favourite Scottish produce and why?

Clyde Valley’s Strawberries and tomatoes are amazing. They bring back memories of childhood, eating them straight from the plant.

What Scottish produce is most underrated?

Scotland is God’s country and everything that we grow and produce is going to be excellent. At AdLib we use Scottish beef, chicken, and seafood and when global warming allows us to grow avocados and corn, I’ll be using that too!

Are there any foods you just don’t like?

Yes - Baobab fruit. When we opened AdLib in Malawi, my friend Ken who was Head Chef there made up a glass of Baobab milk for me to try. It’s allegedly healthy being packed with vitamins and minerals, but I haven’t recovered yet.

If you could give one piece of advice to a home chef, what would it be?

Enjoy yourself, cooking should be fun. Listen to advice but don’t always follow it.

What meal would you choose as your last supper?

A traditional Jewish Sunday lunch with bagels, Kuchens, smoked salmon, cream cheese, chopped herring, chopped liver, egg salad and the hottest chrain I can find.

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