The Restaurateur, Mark Wallbank

Introducing Restaurateur & hospo icon Mark Wallbank

Where I started: Work experience at Parliament’s in-house restaurant, Bellamy’s (aged 16). 
Where I am now: Owner & Operator of The Blue Breeze Inn and Chop Chop.

Mark Wallbank’s career has been impressive to say the least. From cutting his teeth at Bellamy’s to cheffing at London’s The Ivy, to opening many of Auckland’s most known and successful restaurants — from Rocco to Magnum and Moochowchow — and finally, spotting an opportunity in 2013 to take over an incredible corner site in Ponsonby, opening the now institution that is The Blue Breeze Inn — his history in hospitality is vast and varied. 

Feel like you're missing out? Be the first to know about what's new & noteworthy.
Sign up to our free EDM subscription today.
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

“Growing up, I wanted to be a chef,” says Wallbank, “My mum was an amazing cook, and she also hosted these fabulous dinner parties. I’d sit on the steps at home, peering around the corner watching her cooking, eating, drinking cocktails, and having an incredible time entertaining, and think — that’s what I want from my life.” Inevitable, then, that Wallbank would pursue a career in hospitality and take any opportunity that came his way. At 16, his uncle, who was an MP at the time, secured him a job at parliament as a waiter at Bellamy’s. “It was an incredible place in the 80s — full silver service, which is unheard of now, but it was the perfect place to learn the fundamentals of what truly exceptional service looks like. I moved into the kitchen after a while and did my full apprenticeship, which was about as extensive and diverse as it gets. We were even taught how to carve ice sculptures!” he recalls. 

“[Bellamy’s] was an incredible place in the 80s — full silver service, which is unheard of now, but it was the perfect place to learn the fundamentals of what truly exceptional service looks like…”

From there, the sky really was the limit. Wallbank made for London, where he worked at bistros and boutique hotels, before landing a job as a chef at The Ivy, honing his skills and learning the tricks of the trade before heading home to New Zealand. Back in Auckland, Wallbank became somewhat of an iconic fixture in the early noughts dining scene, with front-of-house positions in some of the city’s most revered spots such as Cibo, Otto’s, and VBG. Wallbank and his enigmatic personality propelled him to the top of the game quickly. The natural progression then, was to open a place of his own. 

Now, Wallbank has been running his fourth restaurant, The Blue Breeze Inn, for 11 years, and it’s the satisfaction of maintaining an institution that keeps him inspired. “Restaurants are a trend. A lot of them come and go,” he tells me. “I get fulfilment from running a restaurant that’s been around a while, and the layers of history that you can build with your guests is incredible,” he continues. “If you can keep making the same dish they love 20 years later, that’s the essence, that’s what keeps them coming back.” 

When thinking about the misconceptions people have when it comes to the hospitality industry, he tells me that when he was starting out, people would ask what he was studying at university, assuming he was working hospo as a side gig. And this attitude somewhat remains today. But for Wallbank, what the industry has offered him far outweighs any negativity. “That feeling of standing in an amazing restaurant where everything is working at full steam and running beautifully, with a buzzing energy in the room — that’s addictive to me. I was hook, line and sinker from the beginning,” he beams. And it’s glaringly obvious that Wallbank is exactly where he’s meant to be.

12 Next


Introducing Mixologist, Entrepreneur & hospo icon Egor Petrov
Introducing Café Manager & hospo icon Xabi Gutierrez
Introducing independent Restaurant Owner & hospo icon Carlo Buenaventura