For the last 27 years Mark Jensen has made his name in the food world, most notably as executive chef and co-owner of Darlinghurst Vietnamese restaurant Red Lantern.
But now, say hello to Mark Jensen the hair stylist. Late last year, he opened The Cut Barbershop and Gentlemen’s Collective at the rear of Red Lantern, in the restaurant’s private dining room. “I can operate as a barber shop during the day, and at night time I switch it over and use [it] as the private dining room for the restaurant,” Jensen tells Broadsheet.
Jensen was a qualified hairdresser before he ever stepped into a commercial kitchen. He even worked with Opera Australia’s production company styling wigs and hair. And now he’s found a renewed appreciation for those skills.
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“I’ve been cooking for 27 years, and 20 have been with Red Lantern. I was thinking it’d be nice to have a bit of a sabbatical, especially with the last year and getting through Covid,” he says.
Jensen describes getting back into hairdressing as “a bit like riding a bike”. He offers a range of services, including haircuts, razor shaving, beard trimming and face scrubs. They can be enjoyed alongside the local craft beer of the month or batch cocktails by Ester Spirits. You can also opt for a cut, face scrub and shave plus a drink for $85.
“It’s been fun stepping out of the kitchen and chatting to the people … I forgot how much of a confessional the salon chair is,” he says. “I find a lot of guys go through divorces, break-ups, troubles and they just need someone outside their friends circle to vent to.”
The idea to pull something like this together has been “percolating” in Jensen’s mind since 2016, when he and a group of mates went on a US cycling trip, from Portland to San Francisco. “When I was there I really wanted a haircut, and I came across this place in San Francisco. It was the coolest shop. It was like a gentlemen’s shop – they sold clothes, hunting and fishing things, and they also had a barber shop. I was really impressed with it and thought, ‘I have to lock that one away.’”
But The Cut is more than just a barber shop, Jensen explains. Every month, he plans to organise motorcycle rides and beer-themed dinners with local brewers such as White Bay and Willie the Boatman. “It’s just about getting guys together, because I find women are really awesome at keeping social, emotional and mental health in check, but guys [can be] a bit pathetic.”
The store also stocks all the products needed to help maintain the mane, plus a range of ’40s and ’50s vintage-inspired military workwear. “It’s a bit anti-fashion, because there’s no slim jean in sight,” Jensen says.
While the barber shop may be his flash new thing, Jensen also has plans to give the restaurant a little love further down the track – to “make it more casual and offer different things for lunch, put in a little bar and to try to stay relevant and current”.
“Covid was really positive for me and it really changed my thinking. I’ve decided I’m just going to have a bit of fun.”
The Cut Barbershop & Gentlemen’s Collective
Crown Lane, Darlinghurst
Tue to Fri 10am–6pm
Sat 12pm–6pm (by appointment only)