MICHELIN stars, A-list restaurants and ITV’s Hell’s Kitchen made and cemented Marco Pierre White as a world famous chef.
And with a return to TV alongside his one-time protege-turned-rival Gordon Ramsay in the works, the 59-year-old’s irresistible stock is set to rise again.
However, the man formerly nicknamed the enfant terrible of British cooking insists he has zero interest in fame.
In an exclusive interview with The Sun, when asked if he liked living in the limelight, he said: “Nope, not in the slightest, but I respect when people ask me for a photo in the street or restaurant, it’s fine. I think I have a responsibility.
“I live in the woods outside Bath, no one sees me really. I’m in London today, but very rarely am I seen, unless I’m working.”
Marco’s rise to stardom began with the opening of his legendary Wandsworth restaurant Harvey’s in 1987.
It wasn’t long before the first of his three Michelin stars was awarded, turning the restaurant into one of the capital’s most sought after eating spots.
The delicious French cuisine was lapped up by critics and celeb diners alike, and the restaurant proved a breeding ground for talent including Gordon Ramsay, who learnt his trade in its kitchen.
Alongside the rave reviews there were occasional tales of ill-mannered customers getting turfed out.
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Marco said: “I always have been (protective of staff). If you go back to the 80s and 90s at Harveys, I used to ask people to leave. You can’t have it.”
He has now joined forces with Stella Artois and charity, Hospitality Action, to highlight the importance of good manners in restaurants and bars after research found hospitality workers fear an increase in rudeness towards them this Christmas.
The campaign is urging people to be polite when buying their pints this festive period.
He said: “Well you’ve got to remember it’s a minority and, if you think, there is a shortage of staff in the industry at the moment.
“People have lived through lockdown and are back into restaurants, back into pubs and with social distancing it creates a bit of frustration, sometimes through frustration can create rudeness.”
It even pays to be kind this Christmas as a selection of pubs across London, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Newport will knock £1 off the price of a pint if customers simply say “Can I have a Stella, please” when placing their order. And for each pint ordered, Stella Artois will donate to Hospitality Action.
Six years after leaving Harveys in 1993, Marco quit the kitchen for good and returned his coveted Michelin Stars having become increasingly frustrated with the constraints of being a world renowned chef – particularly the long hours away from home and relentless judgement.
He went on to open a series of steakhouses, a chop house and a New York Italian eatery among others.
Now more than 20 years later he’s launched perhaps his most innovative dishes ever: 3D-printed vegan steaks.
He's so enamoured with the Redefine Meat products, which retail between £20 and £30, that he’s hailed them “genius”.
The attention they’ve garnered has taken Marco aback. He said: “I’m rather shocked by the size of the waves. Almost a tsunami rather than a wave. I was really, really shocked.
“It is the cleverest product I’ve ever seen. I think it’s a game changer, I think it’s revolutionary. It’s only a matter of time before Michelin star restaurants start putting it on their menu. It’s genius, that’s the only way to describe it with one word.”
It was just temptation every day
The growing trend towards vegetarianism and his own daughter's dietary preference were enough to convince him that it was a concept worth backing.
“My daughter, she’s 19, 99 percent of the time she’s a vegetarian and then there’s that one percent where curiosity gets the better of her," he said. "If I look at her friends, I’d say that 80 percent of them are vegetarian, and on an evening sometimes 20 percent of the diners have gone vegetarian. It's extraordinary, I mean the growth of it is enormous. When I started in the industry 40 plus years ago, there were no vegetarians. But now there’s so many of them.”
A few years ago, Marco went vegan for nine months himself, but in the end he couldn’t let go of his love for meat.
“It was just temptation every day, wasn’t it,” he said. “You walk past a delicious rib of beef, you walk past a nice delicious cheese board, you see a nice beautiful roast chicken come out of the oven. I surrendered. It took nine months and I surrendered. I succumbed to it, it was extraordinary.
“I was doing it for a journey, and today I don’t eat meat every day of my life. I’ll have fish, I’ll have meat, and I’ll have vegetarian as well. I like vegetarian food. You go to restaurants now and they make it interesting whereas 30 years ago you’d think ‘oh vegetarian, I’ve never heard of one’. Now they play a big part in our menus.”
Christmas lunch at Marco's home this year will be a more traditional affair though, with turkey and all the trimmings.
He'll be taking charge of the food prep as he “doesn’t trust anyone else with gravy or roasting turkey”, and the scene sounds like it'll be much more relaxed than the kitchens with which he made his name.
He said: “You get more pleasure from cooking for family and friends. Then it’s not a job is it? When you work in a restaurant all the time doing X amount of services, that’s a job and you have to be focused. There’s a very big difference between doing something for pleasure and doing something for work.
“They always say it's the best turkey they’ve ever had.”
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