Meet The Chef: 10 minutes with Marco Pierre White
Late last year, What’s On announced that one of the world’s most famous chefs, Marco Pierre White, had joined us as a columnist. The legendary British restauranteur, who is credited with pioneering the culture of celebrity chefs, will impart his signifiant expertise on us every month in our Eat section, delivering new recipes and insider knowledge on the latest food trends and talking points.
Marco, whose Wheeler’s in DIFC and new MPW Grill in the Conrad Hotel are among the most popular spots in Dubai, became the youngest and first British chef to be awarded three Michelin stars when he was just 33, and has been a leader in the field ever since. .
As part of his initiation into Team What’s On, we sat down with Marco to get the lowdown on his background, his celebrity status, his most important kitchen utensils and much, much more.
My earliest memories of food are all with my mother. I remember gathering peaches and eating them while their juices were still warm. I also remember sitting under the table while my mum, nonna and aunty prepared vegetables for the minestrone.
I eat most things. When you are a chef, you learn to like everything as long as it’s cooked to perfection.
My favourite pastime is spending time with my family, in particular in the English countryside.
I am not a celebrity. Chefs tend to be shy. There’s a difference between being a celebrity and a star; you don’t have to possess talent to be a celebrity. But you definitely need something to be star. I consider Dean Martin to be a star, however I lack the charisma and personality to be a star.
The most important items in the kitchen are a good knife and a large chopping board. Having one without the other is very dysfunctional. I like a ten and a half inch Shashimi knife; it makes preparation a breeze.
No one can teach you how to cook, you have to teach yourself. But it’s important to inspire people. Cooking is a philosophy, unless your dealing with pastry in which case it’s chemistry.
Gastronomy is the greatest form of therapy that any misfit, or individual, could ever be exposed to.
I came from humble beginnings, that’s the foundation of my world and I highly appreciate the old values, like honesty and loyalty.
I only ever dine in restaurants I have an association with.
I always think cooking in a pot adds more flavour than in a pan. When I cook at home, I tend to cook in one pot. It might be a risotto, it might be pasta, or it might be a stew.
When I think of Dubai, I think of New York and San Francisco. All three cities have a dining culture. The majority of people in these cities dine out on a regular basis – they don’t cook at home.
If I could pick any chef to cook a three course meal for me, I would choose Fernand Point. He was the French chef who owned La Pyramide in Vienne [south of Lyon]. Fernand Point was responsible for training up some of the world’s greatest chefs.
The most important aspect of any restaurant is not the food – it is the environment you sit in. Then it is the service, and thirdly it’s the food. If you don’t feel comfortable, you’ll never enjoy yourself no matter how good the food is. If the service is not with a smile and friendly, you will not enjoy the whole experience.
I lived the golden age of gastronomy. Back in the day, a chef’s place was always behind the stove. When I worked in La Gavroche, Albert Roux was behind the stove working the pass. The same with Pierre Koffmann at La Tante Claire, with Nico Ladenis at Chez Nico, with Michael Lawson at the Box Tree, and with Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.
I look at restaurants the same way that I look at my family. They’re like my children. Some of them are problematic and some of them are easy.
If I had to choose only one cuisine to eat for the rest of my life, it would be Italian. It’s the closest to me.
You can read more from Marco in the January issue of What’s On, which is available now.