During his recent visit to our shores, acclaimed chef Marco Pierre White took time out to chat with Mary-Jane Cervera
Success is born out of arrogance, but greatness comes from humility
~ Marco Pierre White
Indeed, humility was the resounding theme echoed throughout this candid and exclusive interview with esteemed chef, Marco Pierre White. And what an absolute privilege it was to acquire an insight into the mind and theories of not just a culinary genius, but also a man so thoughtful and learned that his philosophy extends way beyond the kitchen.
As a prelude to this piece, Chef Marco Pierre White made it very clear that he no longer conducted interviews of this nature, and that the only reason he accepted the invitation was due to the fact that he is a great supporter of Gault&Millau and their attention and kindness toward the industry. He is rather fond of the organisation’s informed, well-thought-out and nurturing process applied when reviewing restaurants worldwide, and very proud of the guide and the influence it has had on the industry. He speaks rather fondly of the original founders of the guide, Henri Gault and Christian Millau, and how their writings were such a great influence upon him in the early stages of his career.
Chef Marco Pierre White on Australia
MPW loves his visits to Melbourne. He likes the feel of the city, its people and culture and believes that the city is visually beautiful and that the cuisine is some of the best in Australia – but also acknowledges that it is unfair to make this statement, as he has not yet travelled the whole country. One thing he is certain of, however, is that good eating can be found in every corner of Australia, which he attributes to the wonderful fresh produce he has experienced here. He lists fish, shellfish and our top-quality meat among his favourite local produce. While MPW believes that Australia has great fresh produce, he also points to the importance of using food from all over the world, as each country has something wonderful and different to offer.
MPW believes that Australia is more than qualified to be placed on the world stage among other great culinary nations and believes that the Australian food and restaurant scene has evolved considerably over the last 10 years. MPW refers to Australia becoming master of the middle market – delicious cuisine enjoyed in a casual yet amazing environment, with kind staff and high-end gastronomy. He is very proud of the chefs that Australia has produced and believes they have offered so much to the culinary world and also that Australia still has so much more to give.
Chef Marco Pierre White on food shows
A lot of positives can come out of good quality TV food shows such as MasterChef. MPW believes they inspire people to buy better produce; educate home cooks to be more successful when cooking dinner; and give great insight into the industry, while paying respect to many chefs deserving of recognition.
Chef Marco Pierre White on dining and food today
‘Good cuisine, not petty cuisine’ is the term MPW coins as he struggles with the concept of the 18-course canapés/degustation or, as he refers to it, “the canapé party on plates”. (Side note: MPW is definitely not a fan of the tweezer concept, and sadly finds that today, many chefs cook for Instagram, not for the people; he also believes that the more you do to a dish, the more you take away from it.)
“How can one retain heat within food such as fish, meat or poultry, or anything else for that matter, when the servings are so small.” For this reason, MPW finds many dishes tepid and believes that social media has taken over generous cuisine. Platforms such as Instagram are all about the visual – the prettiness of the dish – and no longer about generous servings, aromas or heat, resulting in lack of fulfilment. Generosity should be at the forefront and the main reason for cooking. Action this and then you get heat and fulfilment. MPW goes on to say that he does not like to feel he is being patronised when dining and believes that the lack of generosity adversely impacts the overall dining experience.
Chef Marco Pierre White on women in the industry
MPW does not understand why organisations feel the need to segregate awards such as ‘Best Female Chef’ and ‘Best Male Chef’. He believes that today, female and male chefs are more than capable of competing in the same category on a level playing field and within the same competition, and would very much like to see this become standard.
When is a chef considered a true artist?
A man who works with his hands is a labourer,
A man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman,
But a man who works with his hands, his brain and his heart is an artist.
~ Louis Nizer
For MPW, this quote relates to generous cuisine, not Instagram cuisine – when at the centre of what is being plated up is heat, warmth, generosity and soul.
Chef Marco Pierre White speaks from the heart
As a boy, MPW was ruled by his fear of failure and the fear of being sacked and having to tell his father, which fuelled great insecurity. This, in turn, was a driving force behind everything he did, and why he wanted so much to succeed. The death of his mother was one of the most challenging times in his life and impacted greatly on these insecurities and the need to be accepted, but later inspired him to go on and succeed.
Growing up in his hometown of Leeds in England was difficult for this young man, and at the age of 16 he started a journey that would lead him to become the great chef he is today. He would listen intently to his mentors, who would tell him wonderful stories of the great chefs of France and it was almost like he was there. MPW believes that a story is way more important than a recipe believing a recipe can confuse you, but a story can inspire you.
“All those stories that were told to me as a young boy, inspired my dream and that is what is most important, to realise your dream and to move toward it.”
Only then, what was once thought of as a fantasy with minimal chance of becoming a reality, soon came to fruition due to sheer determination and hard work and living by the philosophy that “success is born out of luck, and the awareness of that luck in combination with hard work gives you success … You see, if you have a dream, then you have a duty and a responsibility to yourself to make it come true”.
What MPW experienced as a boy inspires him today. He is so grateful to those chefs in those great restaurants that helped him along the way to realise his dream. From this came his passion to do the same for young chefs today. He is keen to help young chefs have access to the same opportunities that he was once fortunate enough to acquire on his own path to success.
To what does Chef Marco Pierre White believe he owes his success
“The young men and women behind me were responsible for my success. They created the symphony, whilst I was merely the composer. They were greatly responsible for making my dreams become a reality, and, in turn, I made them realise theirs”.
Some wise words
“Along my journey I spent every day in the kitchen living my truth. The kitchen challenged me, inspired me. My love of sharing is the business I am in, cooking for the people was my passion every step of the way, there was no pretence.” And MPW implores chefs of today to do the same and advises that no matter how strong the temptation is to grow and expand their brand or business, that whilst they may stray from the stove, they need to stay close to the flame. This will ensure their success.
Chef Marco Pierre White now
MPW loves returning to his retreat on his farm in Bath, and is passionate about his hotels, The Rudloe Arms Hotel near Bath and The English House Hotel in Singapore. He loves the written word and if there is one piece of advice he would give anyone wanting to succeed, it is to read – read whatever you can and learn all that you can.
No matter what comes next, MPW will continue to inspire and mentor young chefs worldwide in continuing along their path and fulfilling their dreams.