UK restaurateur Marco Pierre White in the MasterChef kitchen at Melbourne Showgrounds. Photo: Pat Scala.
I met legendary chef Marco Pierre White between shooting scenes for MasterChef Australia some weeks ago – here’s the kitchen spy that ensued…
UK’s “Enfant terrible” Marco Pierre White is regarded by many as the original celebrity chef. Regardless, it’s clear MPW has made a lasting impression on the British dining scene with his three-Michelin-star restaurant and a training legacy that includes protégés Gordon Ramsay, Curtis Stone and Shannon Bennett. Although he retired as a full-time chef in 1999, he continues to tour the world doing cameo cooking appearances (as in MasterChef Australia). He lives by himself near Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire, England, owns several steakhouses, two hotels and has just finished building a couple of “enormous” piggeries. “I don’t cook professionally anymore and I haven’t done for many years but I still do a lot of cooking in my life. A chef is allowed to stray from the stove but we must stay close to the flame.”
“I have HP Sauce for my breakfast with my sausages, bacon or tomatoes.” Photo: Pat Scala
I don’t have a pantry. I have a very large fridge that was made in France in 1932, which is enormous and set into a wall with two doors. Along the top of it is a line of Kilner jars: they might have haricots blancs or lentils, which I might cook with cotechino sausage or a roast partridge. I buy good quality Italian pastas because I find fresh pastas are heavily dusted in whatever it is they dust them in and they always go soggy, they never deliver. And I have HP Sauce for my breakfast with my sausages, bacon or tomatoes.
The outside of my fridge is all wood and it has brass handles, which have been worn down over the years, and inside it’s all galvanised, with wooden shelves. The door is [20-centimetres] thick and the walls are so cold. Like every household I have my marmalades, compots, preserves and chutneys – there’s cheese in there and there’ll always be a selection of cold meats because I’m very fond of them. And pickle lilly – when I come home my favourite supper is a ham sandwich with piccalilli and a cup of tea – very simple, so that’s what my housekeeper will make me.
“I might cook Black lentils with cotechino sausage or a roast partridge.” Photo: Pat Scala
Everything’s a vice because I indulge. For me, if you indulge, everything in life is a vice. If you sneak off and have a bit of chocolate I don’t regard that as a vice – that’s “sneaking off and having a bit of chocolate”.
Last dinner at home
A macaroni of lobster for my friend who came over from Singapore. We went down to Poole and we bought the lobsters and then we came back and made a macaroni of lobster. I like the whole journey of food and that starts with going to source things.
I don’t have alcohol at home so I’ll buy the wine for the occasion and whatever’s left I’ll just pour down the sink and throw the bottle away. I like Burgundys – I don’t like my wines too heavy and two glasses of wine are enough for me, otherwise it doesn’t matter what you’re drinking, it’s too much. [But] there’s nothing like English beer: Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, or The Black Sheep Brewery or Adnams Southwold; and there’s one down in Dorset called Buckham – they do a really delicious light IPA called Buckham Blonde.
I like a knife, I like a board, I like a pan, [it’s] straightforward. I use Japanese Mac knives and I have a sashimi knife, which has a 10-and-a-half-inch blade and a European handle. It’s quite a fine blade but with backbone and I can do most jobs with it. I’m particular with chopping boards – they have to be enormous because if you have a big chopping board you work tidily, you don’t end up with mess everywhere.
Many things inspire me but number one: Mother Nature. Without question, she is the greatest inspiration. When you look at beautiful produce it makes you want to cook. And when you sit in the company of special people, they make you want to cook.
I don’t have a favourite but I do have beautiful things in my kitchen. I’ve got a chopping block from 1865 from Paris, which has all been restored; and I have a giant, 19th century pestle and mortar, which is set inside the trunk of an elm tree. It’s about a metre-high and has these iron bands around it, which hold it together. I don’t use it – it’s just there because I love it. It’s a piece of kitchen art.
Most unforgettable meal
When I go to London I always have lunch in the same place. I go to Koffmann’s – he was my boss in 1984 – great cook. I love that traditional French cuisine.
UK restaurateur Marco Pierre White. Photo: Pat Scala
I keep it very simple. For example, I might come back from London with a white truffle and make a risotto or pasta. My favourite way is fried eggs cooked very gently in lots of butter with grated white truffle over it and just some toast – delicious.
When I was down in Margaret River somebody cooked magpie goose for me. The meat was so fine it was as good as the finest roe deer, the finest hare, the finest pigeon d’ Brest, the finest Challans duck – it was that good.
This story was first published in Epicure Good Food on May 3, 2016. Read it on good food.com.au here.