As he keeps an expert eye on the food he’s busy preparing, Marco Pierre White looks extremely calm – not at all like the archetypal shouting and swearing celebrity chef.
He’s at the Sinah Warren Hotel in Hayling Island to show chefs from Warner Leisure hotels across the country how he prepares some of his favourite dishes.
As he finishes cooking and casually sips on a coffee, he says those high-stress, temperamental days have gone.
He seems a million miles away from the chef who once made a young Gordon Ramsay cry and reputedly sliced open the back of another chef’s whites because he complained he was too hot.
He says: ‘I never swear. I never shout. I never belittle. I do my job. I’m very firm, but I don’t think it’s necessary to shout.
‘Shout on the orders, but that’s where it ends,.
‘I might look disapprovingly at people, but I don’t remember the last time I raised my voice.’
Having grown up in Leeds, Yorkshire, Marco dreamed of making it as a chef.
He soon made his way to London and began his classical training as a commis under Albert Roux and Michel Roux at the renowned Le Gavroche.
It wasn’t long before Marco ended up owning and running a top London restaurant himself and at 33 he became the youngest chef to win three Michelin stars in England.
Looking back, he believes it was the highlight of his career.
Marco explains: ‘The pinnacle of my career was winning those three Michelin stars.’
‘I don’t know whether that was the happiest moment of my career, for the simple reason that it sort of came to an end in many ways then.
‘I had achieved everything I set out to achieve.’
Marco quickly became known as one of the top chefs in the UK.
But in 1999 he decided to retire from the kitchen. He says: ‘I had to find myself again within my industry and re-discover myself as a person.
‘For 22 years I was institutionalised within the kitchen.
‘When I left, I was a little bit lost. But I came back and now I’ve started building businesses again.’
Marco now owns more than 30 restaurants and pubs across the country. His empire includes the Wheelers of St James restaurant at Yateley in Hampshire and the King’s Arms in Fernhurst, West Sussex.
His Marco restaurant at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge home is the result of a collaboration with football club owner Roman Abramovich.
But he says it’s the pubs that he’s most proud of.
Marco explains: ‘I like making and building them because a lot of the pubs I get are in quite a dilapidated state.
‘They are quite old, but pretty. I spend a lot of my time now restoring pubs.’
Having made a name for himself in the kitchen, he is not too impressed by today’s ‘celebrity’ chefs who trade on their fame.
He says: ‘I think a chef’s place is behind his stove, and when I retired from cooking in 1999 I told the world that.
‘I didn’t pretend that I cooked when I didn’t.
‘I think people that are going to your restaurants actually want you to cook their dinner. Maybe I’m wrong.’
As well as branching out into owning pubs and restaurants, Marco is now the face of Knorr.
The best advice he believes he can give to people when cooking at home is to keep it simple.
Marco explains: ‘Why make it complicated? I tend to make risotto, or a big bowl of pasta.
‘It’s about keeping it simple at home and making it tasty. It’s as simple as that.’
He adds: ‘But people do like to experiment and get excited about food.’
Looking back at everything he’s achieved in his career, Marco says he doesn’t think he is a particularly ambitious person.
He reveals: ‘If anything I’m ambitious by default.
‘I do my job well, but I don’t work any harder than anybody else.
‘Some people go sailing, some people go fishing. My pastime now is building and developing businesses and pubs.’
It’s all a far cry from those early days as he sought to establish himself as a chef in the tough culinary world.
He says: ‘I don’t put myself under the same kind of pressure I used to be under as a young man.
‘I just enjoy my life now.’
Marco Pierre White was born in Leeds in 1961 and left school without any qualifications.
He decided to train as a chef and began working in the kitchen at the Hotel St George in Harrogate, North Yorkshire and later at the Box Tree in Ilkley, West Yorkshire.
He moved to London at 16 with ‘£7.36, a box of books and a bag of clothes’. By the time he was 24 he was head chef and joint owner of Harveys restaurant.
Among those who worked for him earlier on in their careers are Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal.
MARCo’S STEAK AU POIVRE
2 fillet steaks (180g each)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
50ml Double cream
25ml Worcestershire sauce
Professional Mixed Peppercorns Puree
Beef Paste Bouillon
1. Mix the Beef Paste Bouillon with the olive oil in a bowl to make a paste.
2. Massage the paste into one side of the steaks and place paste side down in a heavy base dry, non-stick pan.
3. Season the remaining side and add a teaspoon of Professional Mixed Peppercorns Puree with the Worcestershire sauce to the simmering pan.
4. Reduce the Worcestershire sauce and continue to cook the steak, searing both sides.
5. Add the double cream, simmer and serve.