Unlike most chefs Mark Jensen did not start working in a professional kitchen until the age of 27. "At that time I was considering a career change but didn’t know what that change might be. I had to get away and consider my options so I moved to Byron Bay. I found work as a kitchen hand, surfed in the morning and washed pots at night for 6 months. During this time I became completely enamored with restaurant life."
Mark decided that if he was going to be a successful Chef the right training would be essential. He moved back to Sydney and promptly obtained a position in Mathew Morans kitchen at the Paddington Inn Bistro. Mathew is renowned for using the freshest produce and constructing inspiring flavour combinations, always letting the produce itself take pride of place.
After three years with Matt, Mark moved to the Bennelong Restaurant - Sydney Opera House. Under the exceptional tutelage of Janni Krystis, he refined the techniques he had previously learned. "Janni is a true alchemist, He could combine ingredients and extract flavour like no other."
The time had come for Mark to make his own stand in the Sydney dining scene and he opened the dining room at the Olympic Hotel in 1995.
After many years at the stoves and many favourable reviews in the Good Food Guide, Mark was approached by his brother in-law Luke Nguyen to head up the kitchen brigade at his new restaurant, Red Lantern. He received intensive training from ’Sifu’ Li, a Vietnamese master chef and quickly became familiar with his new friends the cleaver and the wok. Red Lantern became an instant hit with Sydney’s dining public, a cool but casual dining room, fresh ingredients crafted in a traditional manner with informative service.
Mark appears regularly as guest chef on Ready Steady Cook - Network Ten. He says that "The most enjoyable part of being on Ready Steady Cook is meeting and exchanging ideas with the other talented chefs and sharing the passion of food with the contestants."
Mark has conducted cooking classes at the Sydney Seafood Food School for the last fifteen years. He is also invited regularly to hold cooking demonstrations at prestigious cooking schools and events across Australia.
After the huge success of Secrets of the Red Lantern, in which Mark, in collaboration with Luke, contributed recipes and anecdotes, he has started his own book about ethical eating, sustainability and the carbon footprint we leave through our food production - a subject he is most passionate about. Currently he is busy transforming Red Lantern to be as ’green’ as possible.
Red Lantern celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, "the work load has eased slightly. These days I try to find more balance in my life. I love spending time with my family, keeping fit through cycling and yoga and eating and drinking as much fine food and great wine as I can."
His book The Urban Cook - Cooking and Eating for a Sustainable Future is available at all good book stores.
Click here to purchase your copy.
If you would like to contact Mark, you can email him at