A look behind the scenes at the Black Birch Restaurant, a hidden gem in Hockley Valley

January 11, 2024   ·   1 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

“It’s been over 16 years on the Hockley Road, since I bought the place,” said Mark Mogensen, owner and Chef of the Black Birch Restaurant in Hockley Valley.

This gem is tucked in across from the Hockley Valley Provincial Reserve. The charming interior of the Black Birch Restaurant features a bank of windows on one side. Several bird feeders outside give diners the chance to observe wild birds undisturbed and busy. 

Chef Mogensen is pleased to see a mild increase in his lunch clientele recently, saying that it is nice to have a reason to be here for lunch.

“Lots of retired couples are taking their main meal at lunch here.” he commented. “And maybe have something lighter in the evening. I always thought this would be a good place for lunch as well as dinner. It’s good to see that coming around.”

Chef Mogensen bought this property even though he freely admitted, “To be honest, I never wanted to open a restaurant. That said, I don’t regret it for a second. I really enjoy owning the place.”

The major influence on him to buy his own place came from working in other restaurants where he thought the management was “really evil.” In the belief that he could manage better, Chef Mogensen finally made the decision to open his own restaurant, and he is very pleased he did.

His confidence has been well founded as his staff are inclined to stay employed at the Black Birch. He listed them as two of them have been with him since the first day; of a total of 11 employees, they have been working for him variously for five to eight years. 

He talked about his “second,” Dillion, who actually began working at the restaurant as a teenager and has been with him for 12 years.

“He went off to try other jobs but he always came back to us,” commented the Chef.

“Dillion is doing a good job, doing what I want him to do. He’s very responsible.”

The Black Birch managed to squeeze through the pandemic and all the shut-downs, the Citizen was told, and people were great about getting take-out, but after all that, 2023 has been the most difficult year for a seemingly new approach from the government toward small businesses, with muddled information online, new to Chef Mogensen, in spite of his running his business for some years.

“I love doing the prep and cooking; I can be just a chef and a restauranteur. It’s just recently having to deal with the government is not something I’m good at.”

Chef Mogensen’s grandparents immigrated to Canada in 1948 from Denmark; his father was Danish, and his mother Ukrainian. The whole family has been part of the Danish Club at the Sunset Villa Association in Puslinch, near Guelph. The Danish Place is the restaurant located within the Danish Club just off Highway 6, south of Guelph, in the village of Puslinch.

He has a partner, Darren Mascarin, as it has been a family place for many decades. His involvement in the Danish Place is sometimes as a Chef and to help with the online life of government regulations. The food at the Danish Place is comparable to what is served in Copenhagen restaurants, so has the praise rolled in.

He said, “We had people over from Denmark saying the sandwiches are just as good as Copenhagen.”

Of the Black Birch, he continued to talk about how young people come there, wash some dishes, learn something about cooking and then maybe go on to university, but the main wait staff stays on.

While there are staples on the menu: “We have to keep the lamb shank [for example] but there could be other ways to serve it,” he suggested.

The process of renewing the restaurant menu is discussed among himself, Dillion and a couple of the long-term staff. On the one hand, no restaurant wants a menu to become stagnant, but they want to change it enough to make it fresh.

Said Chef Mogensen, “I want to get that excitement back the way it was early on.”

The Black Birch is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner; entertainment on Saturday evenings, sometimes featuring Bob Hewus and Bruce Ley.

Prime rib specials are on Sundays.

“I love what I do; I am here for the long term,” Chef Mogensen said.

Readers Comments (1)

  1. Karen says:

    I have tried for over an hour to see your current lunch menu online with no luck. If you have a lunch menu please email it to me. Thank you.


Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.