AS A schoolboy in Glasgow washing dishes in his local restaurant, Mark Donald fell in love with cooking.

“The chefs would go out for a cigarette break, and I’d call them in to do the final checks,” he explains. “Eventually I stopped calling them back in and just did it myself.

“I loved the energy and the rush of the kitchen. I was all set to go to university to study English but I turned it down and decided to become a chef instead.”

It’s a long way from scrubbing pots in Milngavie’s Tickled Trout to tweaking Michelin-starred menus around the world.

But Mark, a former pupil of Boclair Academy who grew up in Torrance, has spent more than a decade honing his skills to become one of the most sought-after chefs in the country.

He has held senior roles at Claude Bosi’s flagship Hibiscus restaurant in London and Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles in Perthshire – both have two Michelin stars – and he spent four months at Noma in Copenhagen, which was named World’s Best Restaurant at the time. Most recently, he was head chef at Bentley Restaurant in Sydney.

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Now he is back home in Scotland, as head chef in charge of a team of 13 at Number One, the Balmoral Hotel’s prestigious Michelin-starred restaurant on Princes Street.

“It’s great to be back, after years of travelling,” says the 33-year-old, who used to work at Stravaigin in Glasgow’s west end. “Scotland’s my home and I missed it. I never had a grand plan, or knew that places like El Bulli [the Catalonian restaurant considered the epitome of haute cuisine, which gets a million reservation requests a year] even existed.

“I went along to the Good Food Show and saw Andrew Fairlie giving a demo, and afterwards, asked him if I could come and work for a week in his kitchen at Gleneagles. It was amazing – that’s the most calm and well-mannered kitchen I have ever worked in. He was just that kind of man. It ran like clockwork.”

After two and a half years in Perthshire, Mark went to work for Hibiscus in London, where he met his wife Madelaine and the couple then moved to her native Australia.

“That was a different kind of challenge,” says Mark. “Different produce is in season at different times in different states. That was strange. And I missed Scottish shellfish. Australian scallops are rubbish. But the lifestyle, and the weather, were brilliant.”

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At Number One, Mark has introduced a new menu, inspired by Scotland and flavoured by his international travels - hand dived scallops with Iberico pork and black garlic ketchup; Highland Wagyu beef with beetroot and smoked bone marrow; bread loaves using East Lothian barley served with Perthshire apple vinegar, to name but a delicious few.

“Provenance is paramount and if something is Scottish and brilliant, I’ll use it – but I don’t box myself in to only using Scottish produce,” he says. “We have an amazing larder, but I can’t get a decent blood orange, or lemon, here. I have travelled so much, I know what’s out there.”

Mark travels through to Glasgow as often as he can, to see family and friends and to enjoy his home city’s blossoming fine dining scene.

“Glasgow has often been painted with a dirty brush by other chefs, who suggest the city will never have a Michelin star because everyone just wants to eat steak pies,” he says.

“I don’t agree – there are plenty of Glaswegians who want a decent meal, and the restaurant scene is so much better than it was when I first worked there.

“I like The Gannet, and I’m good friends with Chris [Charalambous] at Cail Bruich, where he’s doing an amazing job. Chris and I grew up together – we used to piggy back on each other’s BMX bikes, so we go back a long way.”

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Mark hopes eventually to open his own restaurant – perhaps even in his home city of Glasgow.

“I’ve worked in some great restaurants, with some excellent chefs, upholding standards for them,” he says. “It would be foolish to keep on helping to fulfil other people’s dreams without taking a shot at it myself.

“Five years ago, I’d have been chasing accolades and stars and awards but now, I just want to cook food. I love cooking – it’s why I gave up the chance to go to uni, it’s why I travelled around the world. I just want to make people happy by cooking good food.”