Marco Pierre White: The Devil Wears Chef's Whites
England's original enfant terrible Chef Marco Pierre White explains his return to the burning limelight and why he doesn't mind getting down and dirty. SPOT.ph bravely spoke to him on the phone.
Known as much for his culinary genius as for his fiery temperament, England's original enfant terrible Chef Marco Pierre White explains his return to the burning limelight and why he doesn't mind getting down and dirty.
After a fateful fishing trip, you decided to return your Michelin stars and retire from life in the kitchen. What prompted you to return to the limelight in a medium that you have shunned for so long?
When I retired from the kitchen, I did exactly what when I was a child–when my mother died. I went back to the countryside. I went back to Mother Nature. After about five years, I walked back into London. I left the streams, the rivers, the fields, the woods behind me. I started to discover that I was not the same person. I started to realize the world I walked into in the 70s, as a cook was different world from the one I walked out on. I realized that my new position within my industry was that of an ambassador of the world that I started in. I felt it important to share my story, my journey with the new generation today–the young boys and girls who enter into my industry.
How is your Hell's Kitchen different from your predecessor, Chef Gordon Ramsay? (White claims in his biography White Slave that he once made Ramsay, his protégé, crouch down on the kitchen floor and cry.)
The one thing that has left my industry is the romance of it. When I was a boy, chefs were not celebrities. They stayed behind their stoves. I have never regarded myself as a celebrity. That's why no one ever sees me in public. I step on the stage of Hell's Kitchen for example, to share my story. To give people insight into world I came from. It is a very firm world, a very disciplined world. Our job is to feed the customers to the best of your ability with our team. When you watch "Hell's Kitchen" you'll see discipline. You'll see structure. You'll see understanding. You'll see routine. I may be very firm but I have a job to do. But I am also very understanding. I am very fair. I will work hard, if not harder than everybody else and lead those people from the front. The chef's job is to lead the staff, to inspire them, to make them want to part of this team, to make them want to do it. That is my job.
During the show, you have taught and inspired but have you learned anything from the people and the experience of "Hell's Kitchen?"
When I go to do Hell's Kitchen, it's a job for me. It's like a day in office for you. So therefore, it is my job to those customers with a time frame within the best of my abilities. I'm not there to learn anything from the contestants. I'm there to guide the contestants, to lead them through and to feed the diners. It's that simple. If have learned anything, it's about myself as a person. I have learned three things in my life: I have learned that self-control is true power. I've learned that a clear conscience is true strength. Good friends and family are true wealth. When I work in Hell's Kitchen, the one thing I do learn is that I don't allow emotion into my judgment. I just do my job.
Travel has become essential in the learning process of a chef. Are there any specific food experiences during your travels that have changed or heightened your perspective on food? Where did you go? What did you do? What did you eat?
Everywhere I go leaves an impression on me. If I were to go to Philippines, I would be there rooting in fish markets, in the vegetable markets, in the meat markets. Remember, I am a man inspired by vision. I have never read a book in my life. All my knowledge comes through my eyes, through my hands.
Chefs are told to taste everything, but is there food that you will not try or hate with a passion?
None at all. I try everything.
What would Chef Marco Pierre White's legacy to be?
I don't do what I do to be remembered. I do I what do for the moment. I live for now. I don't live in the future. I don't live in the past. I live for this moment in time. All I ever do in my life is share my story. Buy into people's stories. Be inspired by my environment and my surroundings. At the end of the day, I don't expect to be remembered. I'm here now. I can help now. I can do things now. I can share things now. At the end of the day, to want to be remembered is a sad story.
"Hell's Kitchen UK" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on the Asian Food Channel.
Images from the Asian Food Channel.