Mark White had a career in advertising before he found his niche as Markymarket, visiting Smithfield and Billingsgate markets before dawn so you don’t have to and often delivering fresh produce direct to your door. He fell into this line of work selling sausages to a friend and found that using his modern technology and a willingness to get up in the middle of the night to source the best produce, he had a fledgling business.
‘It’s weird that my business is so traditional (going to market, buying stuff, selling it) and yet dependent on all kinds of modern technology. I couldn’t do this without my mobile, Zipcar and Twitter, they keep my overheads down so I’m still very competitive’.
Mark started his unconventional business back in 2012 and he now has a regular clientele of pop-ups, private chefs, restaurants and enthusiastic amateur cooks, who have come to depend on him for the best meat and fish to be found in the Capital. It’s not a job that many people could handle. Mark gets up at one in the morning to be at Smithfield for 2am to source the freshest meat and the best cuts. Over the years he now knows where to go for the best sausages and who has the tastiest Welsh lamb.
‘At first it was difficult, there’s a real culture here and it’s not easy to get accepted. A lot of the traders thought I was a bit mad and didn’t think I would last, but I’ve stuck at it and people know me and trust me and will often let me know if they’ve got something quality. That feels good, when you’re accepted.’
Mark goes around checking off his list of orders as he becomes increasingly weighed down with his bloody produce. By 2.30 his car is loaded with all his purchases and he’s off to Billingsgate, driving through dark quiet streets that within a few hours will be jammed with traffic:
‘It’s fantastic driving around at this time of the night, you feel like you own the city. It’s important to get the Billingsgate before they officially open at 4am. You can do all your orders and get the freshest stuff, but can’t pay until after the official opening of the market. It’s a bit of a fuss, but its the only way you can get the best produce’.
Walking around Billingsgate with Mark it’s clear he knows what to look for and where to go to finish his orders with as little hassle as possible.
‘Not all the traders are the same. Some are good for crabs and shellfish, others have great salmon or more unusual catches. It’s a matter of knowing what to look for and what to avoid.’
With clinical precision Mark is finished and loaded up within 20 minutes of the Billingsgate bell sounding for the start of business and he’s then on his rounds, delivering to his customers around London before making his way home. Some of his regulars are up in the morning to receive their orders but in a lot of cases they’re tucked up in bed while he quietly leaves their order in an agreed hiding place, like a culinary Santa.
Once finished with the Zipcar, Mark goes around London with his other orders on public transport, delivering to offices and homes around the city and by midday he’s usually back at his Soho office - the Star and Garter Pub. It’s here that he meets other customers and arranges to sell any excess produce using Twitter. It’s also here that Mark meets his mate James Painter, who supplies him with truffles that he delivers to Michelin star restaurants around the capital.
‘This life isn’t for everyone, but I love it. Meeting people doing deals and getting great value and quality for people who really love food. If I don’t do my job right, I don’t survive, so I’ve got to make sure my customers are happy with what I do and the food they get from me. Touch wood it’s working out well at the moment’.
It’s great to see how one man’s love of London and its wholesale markets has given rise to this innovative little business. If you want to find out more about Mark and place an order, take a look at his website or follow him on Twitter. He’s a great contact and an invaluable resource for London’s professional cooks and amateur foodies.
Andrew Kershman's forthcoming book:
is out in the summer