Mark Setchfield - Art Director, Friday Magazine

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Today I’m SymplyConversating with Mark Setchfield, photographer, chef, graphic artist, and founder of GasMarkSix, a culinary magazine dedicated to making glorious, yet easy, dishes.  Mark is also the Art Director for Friday Magazine, the weekly supplement for Gulf News in Dubai. Friday Magazine is the biggest circulated lifestyle magazine in the Middle East!

SymplyEbony: First of all, it’s very nice to meet you! I happened upon your Instagram page and instantly fell in love with your food pics! What impressed me the most was the simplicity of your recipes. Your online magazine, GasMarkSix focuses on creating culinary masterpieces that are, not only beautiful but easy to prepare. Aside from the word “Mark” I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out how you named your magazine. What exactly does GasMarkSix mean?

MarkSetchfield: I love Instagram! For me its a great way to build a global online community and also a great platform to share food and travel experiences. My primary focus has always been, "It's about making food just that bit easier."  When I hear people say, "I don't know how to cook" for me, it's an instant challenge to help.  Sure, not everyone is an excellent cook, but purely for survival, we need to consume food. So when I decided to start my website gasmarksix, my first challenge was what to call it? I work in a creative field, but I found it challenging to create an individual name that reflected my food and vision.  I took to social media and, almost immediately, a university friend messaged me saying, "I have it, the name for your site!"  I was amazed at his speed of creativity.  He sent me a proposal. His message read, "It has to be gasmarksix, that's 180 degrees for the oven, you bake at that temperature, and it has your name too!" Amazed at the genius title, I went online and registered the name immediately back in 2013.

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SymplyEbony: Let’s talk about your position as Art Director for Friday magazine. It’s the most prominent circulated lifestyle magazine in the Middle East. You left London and settled in Dubai to pursue this opportunity.  How did this opportunity present itself and was relocating a difficult decision?

MarkSetchfield: I first visited Dubai in 1995.  I was lucky enough to be offered a 5-day press trip to the first shopping festival in the region. Not really knowing much about the Middle East, it was an instant "yes."  Dubai was, in no way the sprawling metropolis it is now, but my experience was incredible!  Fine dining, luxury hotels, desert tours, I loved the city. Fast forward to 2013. I came to the city to visit friends who I had previously worked with in London.  Leaving a cold and wet London in April, Dubai was a breath of fresh hot air. After many cocktails on one of the many roof terraces my ex-editor popped the question, would I consider uprooting and relocating to Dubai? My initial answer was, "NO".  I loved London, my friends and family,  but as the week came to a climax I thought to myself, "I could live here." 

Perceptions of the region are not as they are reported in the global press.  Dubai offers a tax-free lifestyle, 365 days of sun and it's a land of new opportunities. The relocation wasn't an issue, saying goodbye to family and friends was, but I have hosted many friends since I've been here.

SymplyEbony: You’ve styled for many major magazines. What was your most memorable assignment? What is your dream assignment?

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MarkSetchfield: In 2000 I was sent to New York for a cover shoot for Maxim UK.  I was summoned into the editor's office where he asked me if I had heard of a girl group called Destiny's Child, my reply was instant, "Are you joking me? Yes!'"  He replied, "You have to fly to New York and do a cover shoot for us."  I was so excited, NYC, DC, Soho, who would say no?

My dream assignment would be doing a live cooking demonstration on a beach in Sri Lanka, catching the fish, cutting down coconuts and preparing a feast for family and friends on a beach under the stars.

SymplyEbony: I ask this question of all my interviewees because I love the pure honesty in the answers. Is there anything you wish you had known BEFORE you pursued this career?

MarkSetchfield: Yes, I wish I had known how much fun it was going be!

SymplyEbony: On the flip side of that, is there any knowledge of the industry you feel would have kept you from pursuing this career had you known in advance?

MarkSetchfield: Long answer...NO! It has been, and still is, amazing how my 'regular' job is, one day I'm face-to-face with Beyonce; next, I'm flying first class to Sri Lanka then zipping at 150Kph down the longest zipline in the world. The industry has changed globally, so many great titles have ceased publication, Glamour UK, Interview US, but that's the industry, we have to learn how to share informative and engaging content and reach the same audience we did previously in print.

SymplyEbony: Mark, thank you so much for SymplyConversating with me today. I can’t wait to prepare one of your delicious recipes and see more of your work with Friday magazine!

MarkSetchfield: It's been an absolute pleasure.  Keep on doing what you're doing!

To learn more about Mark Setchfield, check out Friday Magaine and browse the recipes in GasMarkSix, click the buttons below.