Mark Adrian Solomon, chef patron of QZine Restaurant, Clitheroe, looks back on his life in the kitchen and gives an insight into his culinary philosophy

"I started work at the Alma Lodge Hotel in Stockport under the guidance of Brian Hodson, the Head Chef.  My first job was on the sauce corner, chopping parsley which I found difficult. After losing a few finger ends and slicing myself on a regular basis, I eventually discovered how to handle a knife, but more importantly how to keep the damn things razor sharp.

Chef Hodson put me in the patisserie decorating cakes, the likes of which I’d never seen or heard of. I worked along a Swiss Patissiere called Frank. He was a genius at making baskets of roses from hot pulled sugar. I thought it was like a black art. That’s when I fell in love with baking.

I started cooking by watching my mother. She used to bake every Saturday and I was fascinated how the ingredients took on different textures as they were mixed and whisked. I started to help her and learned a lot of her skills. My grandparents’ house was just around the corner. They had come from Russia at the turn of the century and had eight children so the amount of cooking that went on in that house was incredible. I got carried away with it all - fish, stews and dishes from Poland, Lithuania and Russia. I learned so much from them. I also learned how to be frugal and not waste precious food.

Back in the 60s food was a precious commodity and waste was not in the equation. People bang on about using the best ingredients to get the best results, but I believe in being resourceful. You can make the most delicious food with very little.

With that idea in mind I opened my first restaurant in Manchester in a little back alley off Piccadilly. It was a street diner and it seated 24 people - 12 at the counter. We made hot salt beef served on challa bread with English mustard. Within three months they were lining up on the pavement, so I added gourmet burgers and pizza, all home-made and cooked to order. It was called The Posh Potato and was known as The Posh Nosh Shop. It was street food with a twist. I opened two of them and they attracted the stars of Coronation Street, theatre actors and even the band Genesis when they were gigging in Manchester.

I went on to open a deli/bakery in Manchester and one of the highlights was being asked by Yorkshire TV to film in the deli and for me to appear on an ethnic cookery programme called Cooking Eastern European Food.

In the 80s I had travelled a lot in the Middle east, picking up food ideas along the way. I once stayed in a Druze Village – the Druze live in in the mountains above Haifa in Israel and also in Iraq. When I decided to open a restaurant in Clitheroe I put into practice all that I had learned by making mezze salads, falafel, hot flat bread, the recipe is from Biblical times, and we make it to order.

The patties I learned to make from the Druze are actually burgers, but what’s in a name? I also introduced some healthy eating concepts. It was a massive risk because when I first opened everyone asked what is falafel, mezze salad and baba ganoush (a delicious smoky aubergine dip). We have a day and night menu and at night we serve chargrilled swordfish and tuna steaks, flat iron steak in sumac and garlic, all char-broiled and served with mezze salads or veg of the day.

A couple of weeks ago I received a letter from the Coeliac Society. We are now in its official guide as an approved place to eat. We also have a massive vegetarian selection. I believe that any chef that puts together a menu and neglects to cater for all does so at his peril. We also gained accreditation to Les Routiers last year, which makes me very proud.

We are situated in Swan Courtyard just beside the Swan and Royal Pub. The building was originally a stable for the horses that pulled the coaches. They used to rest there overnight some 200 years ago. At night in the summer most customers dine outside in the courtyard, although we have two floors of restaurant inside. It’s the best al fresco dining in Clitheroe and our customers feel like they’re in the south of France."