Marco Pierre White: What I’ve Learned

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Cooking is a philosophy, not a recipe. There’s no science to it… unless it’s pastry, then it’s chemistry.

The key to a great steak is buying great meat but you have to get the heat right into it. There’s nothing worse than ordering a rare steak and it being served cold.

I really don’t understand the criteria for Michelin anymore. As a boy I loved Michelin, especially in the days when it was run by André Michelin. Now they’ve devalued their currency and gone against everything that Michelin stood for and everything it represented.

High-end dining is more production line than it ever was. You go to a Michelin-starred restaurant and get told that you’re having eight, ten or twelve courses. Little portions on little plates and food that’s not hot. You can never get stuck into your food. It’s very easy to make something pretty when you’ve got one scallop on a plate, or one bit of foie gras or one oyster.

I hate getting interrupted every ten minutes to be told what you are eating and how to eat it. You may as well have dinner with the waiter.

The most poisonous source in the kitchen is the chef’s ego. One of the most important aspects of any great restaurant is when you arrive you should feel that you’ve walked into a temple of gastronomy. Three Michelin stars is about the whole package, not just what is on the plate. If you look at people like Alain Passard and Marc Meneau or Pierre Gagnaire in Paris, you see proper three-star restaurants. When you walk into them you instantly feel like you’ve arrived at somewhere special.

Romance has been taken out of restaurants and if we’re honest about it, the only thing that doesn’t date in our industry is romance. Too many restaurants these days are sterile. The whole point of eating out is to eat delicious food in a romantic environment.

I hate dress codes. Don’t dress for others, dress for yourself.

Am I still a better chef than the likes of Gordon Ramsay, Eric Chavot, Heston Blumenthal and others who once worked under me? Oh I don’t think like that. All you can ever do is inspire people to want to cook. In fact, that’s all you can ever do in life – inspire people.

People teach themselves to cook. What happens in the end is who they are inside – and this is shown off on the plate. But you can have an understanding of whether someone will be a good chef by the way they touch things, hold things, put things on the plate and by the way they taste things.

The cooking world I first stepped into was very hard and regimented – it was like joining the army. The kitchen in the hotel industry is like the French Foreign Legion – they don’t ask too many questions. As long as you’re prepared to roll up your sleeves, keep your head down and be respectful, then you’ve got a career.

When I was a boy you went to work to learn your craft. Chefs were acclaimed, but they weren’t famous – it was the establishment that was famous. Now a lot of people are going into the trade to try and become a celebrity rather than a chef. It’s a reflection of the world we live in.

A TV show should inspire, it should educate, it should trigger the imagination, it should be intelligent. When I was doing Hell’s Kitchen, I didn’t shout, I didn’t swear and I did all the covers in the time frame to the best of my abilities.

Yes, I was called an enfant terrible but I’m not someone who likes to label people. I think people should label themselves.

Without the critics a lot of chefs wouldn’t be who they are and have the reputation they have. But chefs tend to have more knowledge than these people judging them, so let’s be honest, what are the critic’s comments truly worth?

Food critics like AA Gill and Giles Coren have very good palettes and a good understanding of restaurants, but all they are doing is sharing an opinion of their own experience.

What’s been created in Abu Dhabi and Dubai is amazing. They have some very good restaurants. Actually, the one that I go to a lot is Trader Vic’s at The Madinat. I like the environment and if you don’t like the environment somewhere it doesn’t matter how good the food is, you’re not going back.

What do I cook the best? Oh no. Everything has to be equally as good as everything else. Everything has to be the best or your menu becomes unhinged.

Without a proper stove, proper pans and proper knives you can’t work correctly. You’ll always struggle to achieve the desired effect. They are the foundations and they are where you start.

The people I’d have loved to cook for are Dean Martin, Napoleon Bonaparte, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and John Keats.

My final meal wouldn’t be about what I ate, it would be about who I sat with. That’s what would be important to me.

Ultimately it’s all about sourcing the finest ingredients, cooking them perfectly and serving them in the right environment, with a smile

For Esquire Magazine. Click here for PDF1and PDF2

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