What I know now: chef Marco Pierre White

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What I know now: chef Marco Pierre White

TASTE recently geeked out in a big way when we got to chat to MasterChef legend Marco Pierre White. We managed to control our celebrity chef-induced excitement long enough to find out what his years in the food biz have taught him.

On becoming a chef

“I never wanted to be a chef, but I came from very humble beginnings. In the seventies, when you came from humble beginnings, had your father been a miner, you’d have gone down the mines. My father was a chef and he had done his training at the great hotels of northern England, just like my grandfather did. So I followed in their footsteps. It was just a job for me.”

On his first gig

“At 16 I started working at the Hotel St George in Harrogate in northern England. In the afternoon, I used to polish the clients’ shoes round the back of the porter’s lodge. One day, I walked there and saw that a client had left behind a copy of Egon Ronay’s Guide to Hotels and Restaurants in Great Britain. As I paged through the little book, I saw that the best restaurant in Britain, The Box Tree, was 15 miles down the road. So I went back to work that evening, and the next day and the following week and month, but I never forgot about The Box Tree. One day I plucked up the courage and asked them for a job. The good fortune was that the week I approached them, a chef had given his notice.”

When the bug bit

“The owners of The Box Tree, Mr Reid and Mr Long, were exceptional individuals. Once or twice a month, they’d go to France to dine in Michelin’s three-star restaurants, then come back and ask the head chef to recreate their favourite dishes. Every night we’d have to go and say goodnight to the bosses at the end of service. Because I was only 17, I used to be sent up first so the other boys could run to the pub, but I didn’t mind. They told me stories about the great three-star restaurants of France and I’d just sit and listen, mesmerised. They had the ability to draw pictures with their words. That’s where my love for food really started.”

taking the heat in the kitchen

“When I walked into the kitchen all those years ago, every boy and girl there was from a working class world. In those days, you were brought up hard and the kitchen was tough. But let’s be honest, you’ll never grow without pain and you’ll never learn if you’re not pushed. When chefs used to scream and shout, it was because they were doing their jobs. If you’re a three-star restaurant and you have a table of eight with eight different main courses, all cooked to order, you have to push for it to come together all at once. You can’t call the orders like, ‘Annette, two sea bass, in your own time. Brian, when you’ve got a moment, I’ll have that beef, and Gary, you know something, there’s a side order of potatoes, but don’t worry about it, take your time.’ It just doesn’t work like that.”

His gripes with fine dining

“When you go to a lot of top restaurants these days, it’s set menus. Lots of little courses of lukewarm food. They put it in front of you and patronise you. It’s about them and not the client anymore. They tell you what you’re eating, they tell you how to eat it. You have one mouthful, and then they come back and ask you if you enjoyed it. Why do I want to have dinner with a waiter, please tell me? I want to be fed hot food. I want to walk into a restaurant and smell the food. It shouldn’t be about impressing people, it should be about feeding people. If you feed them really well, you’ll impress them by default.”

MasterChef Australia’s “death dish”

“Everyone has their own methods for risotto. Some swear by a wooden spoon, I prefer a spatula. I like a pan that is round-edged at the bottom, rather than sharp-edged, and I don’t add stock gradually. I don’t see the point of it. I believe in working your risotto for the simple reasons that, number one, it doesn’t catch, and number two, it cooks evenly. My mother, who was from Veneto, used to wash her rice, but I think running a bit of water through it doesn’t do anything. I tried both ways. Risotto shouldn’t be stodge, it shouldn’t be heavy. There’s lots of ways of doing it right, and there’s only one way of doing it wrong, and that’s the wrong way.”

What he eats when home alone

“A delicious omelette with Gruyère cheese and a splash of cream. The most delicious sandwich, maybe with beautiful ham and English mustard. A wedge of cheese with some Branston pickle. At the end of the day, it’s about enjoyment. Just sitting down, and eating something that is delicious.”

Chicken or beef? Wine or spirits? Flat white or cappuccino? We threw a few quick-fire questions at Marco Pierre White. Watch the video below to discover his answers – they may well surprise you!

Discover more TASTE features here.

TASTE Article by: TASTE

The TASTE team is a happy bunch of keen cooks and writers, always on the look out for the next food trend or the next piece of cake.

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