Anyone who has ever thrown even a modest dinner party knows that it can take a full day or two to organise and set up. There's coming up with a menu, buying and preparing the food, setting the table, pouring the wine, clearing the dishes... and taking out the rubbish. I'm tired just writing that list.

So, imagine my delight at meeting a chef who can take all of this out of your hands, letting you relax and enjoy the evening. Step up Mark Weeks, who has handled the pressure of cooking for personalities such as Matt Lucas, Graham Norton and Jeremy Clarkson (plus some royalty we can't name); a chef who has, thankfully, settled in Suffolk and made it his business to come to your home or venue of choice to cook a bespoke meal for you and your guests.

I met Mark at a friend's 50th birthday dinner – 10 close friends at the friend's house, enjoying a fine dining experience provided by Mark and one helper. I was in awe. It wasn't just the quality of food (seriously, the best scallops I have ever had – and I have eaten many), but also just how relaxed our host and the whole evening was.

Great British Life: Part of the seven-course taster menuPart of the seven-course taster menu (Image: Charlotte Bond)

I've been to too many dinner parties where the host never gets to really talk to you because they're serving drinks, checking the food, taking coats, and not enjoying the experience they have spent days working up to. Mark took all these tasks away and everyone enjoyed a magical evening. But why, I wondered, had he built his business catering at people’s venues and not using his skills in his own restaurant?

When you talk to Mark about his journey and ethos, it soon becomes very clear what drives him. For him it's all about the customer experience and what they want. He loves the guest engagement and uses his passion for great cooking and top customer service to offer a truly intimate, personalised occasion, not the formula of a restaurant where the experience is dictated by the venue and the menu.

Nevertheless, Mark’s training ground was the world of restaurants. He started working in kitchens at the age of 15 as a pot washer; by 17 he knew he wanted to be a chef. He loved food science at school and the whole experience of a busy kitchen environment told him a desk job wasn't for him.

Great British Life: Mark Weeks, private chef, takes away the stress of a dinner party. Mark Weeks, private chef, takes away the stress of a dinner party. (Image: Charlotte Bond)

After catering college, he worked in Michelin starred restaurants, firstly under his mentor, John Campbell, at the Woodspeen in Newbury, followed by Richard Davies at the Manor House in Castle Combe, and the renowned Shay Cooper, gaining invaluable experience and honing his cooking skills. But it was as head chef at the Falcon in Poulton, Gloucestershire, where he fine-tuned those skills and developed a passion for creating unique menus.

Food psychology intrigues Mark, alongside taste and experience, and he learnt that when offering a bespoke experience he could really tune into the personality of the client. Whether it’s a hen party, special birthday celebration or simply a dinner party to entertain friends, Mark works with them to give them exactly what they want, within their budget. It could be drinks and canapes, a three-course meal or a seven- course tasting menu; the main message from Mark is that its about you the host, not the chef.

Great British Life: Jaspar Corbett, wine expert. Jaspar Corbett, wine expert. (Image: Charlotte Bond)

Mark very kindly offered to come and cook a seven-course taster menu for six of us. After some initial questions about our favourite dishes and ingredients, he sent a menu for us to approve; after a few tweaks we were good to go. I immediately invited wine legend Jaspar Corbett, famous as The Alan Titchmarsh Show's weekly wine expert, whose wine merchant business, Compass Wines, is based in Bentley, just south of Ipswich.

For me, wine is just as important as the food and I could see a great future partnership between Jaspar and Mark in offering a bespoke wine list to complement the menu. He did not disappoint.

Great British Life: Good preparation is a secret to the success of the evening.Good preparation is a secret to the success of the evening. (Image: Charlotte Bond)

The evening

Mark arrived a 5.30pm for a 7pm start and this was when I learnt his first secret; 90 per cent is the prep work. With all the food ready to cook he has time to work his magic. He brings his own plates and cutlery (not the wine glasses, unless specifically requested), lays the table and makes sure that the host just has ‘me time’. Jaspar arrived in good time to open the wines and chill the whites.

Our first surprise was a wild mushroom and truffle arancini canape, perfectly balanced, with a truffle after-taste gently shining through the mushrooms. Perfect with our glass of fizz.

We were invited to sit down and Mark served homemade sourdough and sea salt butter, while Jaspar talked about our first glass, a Crement de Limoux. It was a perfect start to the meal, the sourdough with the sea salt and the Crement’s brioche and apple tones – a really classy alternative to Champagne – matching very well.

I questioned Mark on why he didn't bring a helper to serve. It depends, he says, on the complexity of the meal, the number of people and budget, but for groups of under 10 guests he really enjoys the interaction between the table and the kitchen, and answers any questions about the food with his natural passion.

Great British Life: Fresh, juicy scallops. Fresh, juicy scallops. (Image: Mark Weeks)

Next came my favourite, hand dived scallops with cauliflower and agrodolce, a traditional Italian sweet and sour sauce. The scallops were plump, tender and fresh, the cauliflower delivered the perfect crunch and the sauce released a lemon tang that worked perfectly. The wine was a Loire 2022 Sauvignon Blanc with a lovely fresh, ‘cut grass’ note and creamy texture. The vineyard borders Pouilly-Fume, and this wine is a Pouilly-Fine in all but name, at a fraction of the price.

The food kept coming. A twice-baked, mature Cheddar cheese souffle with a micro herb salad arrived next, the souffle melting in the mouth with its exceptional texture and natural sweetness. It was accompanied by a Californian 2019 Chardonnay whose ripe fruit married well with the rich, cooked Cheddar flavours.

Great British Life:  The twice-baked cheese souffle. The twice-baked cheese souffle. (Image: Mark Weeks)Great British Life:  Refreshing sorbet. Refreshing sorbet. (Image: Mark Weeks)

After a cleansing, subtle apple sorbet, with watermelon and mint, we then hit the main courses. Firstly, a pan fried fillet of sea bass, with prawns, bouillabaisse sauce and samphire. The seafood was all perfectly cooked; subtle flavours and the bouillabaisse a highlight (I need to get the recipe). I felt this was going to be the highlight dish, with a glass of 2019 Cervaro della Sala Umbrian Chardonnay to really enjoy it. But then came the beef.

A perfectly rare, roasted fillet of beef with smoked potato puree – the smoothest of textures – and the most incredible bourguignon sauce. It was just sublime, all aspects working in harmony, a dish that just keeps giving in flavour. The Santenay 1er Cru ‘Rosseau’ 2019 Pinot Noir turned out to be the perfect companion with its juicy plum and black cherry notes that worked like a gem with the rich flavours of the beef.

Great British Life: The succulent beef course.The succulent beef course. (Image: Mark Weeks)Great British Life: The grand finale dessert. The grand finale dessert. (Image: Mark Weeks)

A sign of a good seven-course tasting menu is getting to the final dish – in this case a Michel Cluizel mango and coconut chocolate cremeuz, with passion fruit – and not being so full that you struggle to eat it. We enjoyed it as much as the first course, as all seven courses were so well balanced in portion size. I don't have a sweet tooth, but by the end my plate was clean. Nothing overpowered and it was the perfect finale to a wonderful evening.

My big takeaways from the evening were just how much Mark cares about the guests and making sure you have the evening you want. He is a magician with flavours and I have to highlight his sauces, a talking point of the evening. Part of the secret is that they are made in advance, up to 72 hours in some cases, to really bring out the flavours. A taste sensation.

Great British Life: The wines, courtesy of Jaspar Corbett. The wines, courtesy of Jaspar Corbett. (Image: Charlotte Bond)

Finally, it's not overpriced. Our seven-course menu would cost around £100 per head (budgets normally start from £50 for a three-course meal); I know, from experience, that in a Michelin star or fine dining restaurant you can pay double this without the tailored experience that Mark gives you in your chosen environment.

I love a good restaurant, but sometimes you want to really spoil your guests with exceptional food and entertain in your own space, in private, with a menu of your choice. Mark Weeks (with the added option of Jaspar’s wine selection) is the person to deliver it.