[title maintitle=”Marco Pierre White” subtitle=”Has the rock star chef simmered?”]
Having never met Marco, I was expecting a dragon. His tantrums are notorious, from throwing out diners who asked for salt and pepper, to reducing hot-head Gordon Ramsey to tears, I was expecting somewhat of a Jekyll and Hyde character. But the man who breezed through the doors of his rooftop MPW steakhouse, was both charming and seemingly relaxed.
From humble beginnings, Marco Pierre White was to become the original bad boy chef who inspired a generation. But on the 25th anniversary of his game-changing book, he seems to care very little about it, or so he’d like us to think. “I didn’t my publisher did, I just do what I’m told,” he says of the decision to re-release the book. But surely not, it’s the book that made him. It charts his stardom, well-connected friends and success, all amidst the cinematic photographs of young Marco posing seductively with a shark. “Are you mad!” he says. “I never look at the book. It captures a moment in history – I don’t see me anymore, I see my sons when I look at it.”
After finishing school at 16 without any qualifications, he left for London with just £7.36 in his pocket. “Being a chef in the 70s was no different to being a mechanic… or working at the mill,” he says. White trained under the legendary Raymond Blanc at the Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and the Roux brothers before setting up Harvey’s in 1987. After 22 years in the kitchen, he retired, giving back his three Michelin stars. Why? “I gave my Michelin stars back because people who knew less than me were judging me.”
But White’s a mercurial character and I’m learning to take what he says with a pinch of salt. Whilst he’s keen to remind us of his working-class roots, there’s no northern twang in his voice and he left his home town of Leeds at 16. “I’m like everyone else,” he insists. “I like to make a big stew or risotto and I do use Knorr stock cubes.”
The retired chef professes to prefer a quiet life in the country and likes to spend his down time fishing and gardening. “When I retired, I was stepping out of my comfort zone,” he says. “You’re institutionalised and emotionally stunted in many ways. So I ran to nature and did everything I did as a child.”
Yet in November, the Daily Mail revealed White’s rags to riches story will be made into a film by Sir Ridley Scott (director of Gladiator and Black Hawk Down) with Michael Fassbender tipped to play the enfant terrible.
Later, a tricky question from a fellow journalist enrages him and he refuses to answer any more questions on the subject, threatening to stop the press conference. Lowering his glasses, he gives the journalist a clear death stare. Sometime after, whilst signing books he morphs back into warm and charming Marco.