‘We churn them out’: Marco Pierre White launches new book, Essentially Marco
- Credit: MPW
The Gazette catches up with Marco Pierre White in his eponymous Islington Steakhouse for the launch of his latest cookbook, Essentially Marco.
“I just crave ordinary,” Marco Pierre White, confides solemnly at the launch of his new cookbook.
Scores of people later line up for the one-time “enfant terrible” of the British culinary landscape to sign their copies of Essentially Marco at the MPW Steakhouse Bar & Grill in Pentonville Road, Islington.
But when we speak, Marco appears bored of the fanfare, and is more interested in finding out about where I come from.
“I love Colchester,” he enthuses. “There’s a nice restaurant in the harbour. You take your own bread and butter. I did some filming there.
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“I like Essex. It’s a nice coast line there - really nice. When you get to my age in life you just want simple.
“I came to London two or three months ago, and you know something? I just wanted to go home.”
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Home for him is in Wiltshire just outside Bath, where he owns a hotel, and he enthusiastically tells me about the tropical walled garden he’s building there, with hundreds of banana plants to provide shade without the need for parasols.
Marco was the youngest chef to be awarded three Michelin stars 20 years ago when he was just 33 – a title he still holds to this day.
Having trained under the famed Albert Roux and Michel Roux at Le Gavroche, he went on to nurture kitchen prodigies like Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal at his restaurant Harveys. But in 1999 he handed back his Michelin stars.
“I thought I’d put myself out to graze before they put me out to graze,” he tells me.
“It was my choice to leave, rather than being forced to leave - but your lot find me fascinating after 30 years which I find confusing.”
Although Marco sounds like he might originate from France or Italy, he grew up in Yorkshire on a council estate and came to London as a teenager.
He’s completely lost his accent but can switch it back on at will – as he impressively demonstrates.
“Mum gave me a glamorous name,” he says.
“My brothers are called Graham and Clive. I was number three. Obviously mum put her foot down, didn’t she. She said to my father, Frank, “We had Graham. We had Clive. Can I please have Marco Pierre?”
It might be a fortunate name now, but in the 60s he felt that wasn’t the case.
“Can you imagine being on a council estate in the 60s called Marco Pierre?” he asks.
“Shocking. I did actually get a lot of stick about it. I was born 16 years after World War Two and the Italians were part of the access forces, so I was quite racially discriminated against.”
Marco still proclaims to love cooking – which has become a “passion now, it’s not a job anymore”.
“What’s in your new cookbook?” I wonder.
“Same old, same old,” he tells me. “It’s the same with every chef - it’s just same old. We just produce them don’t we. We churn them out.
“But I always say, if you get one idea out of a book, it was worth buying.”