There’s no romance in modern restaurants, says celebrity chef Marco Pierre White

In Bengaluru recently, celebrity chef Marco Pierre White, who has trained notable chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Mario Batali, talks about returning to the city, and more.
Chef Marco Pierre White (Wikimedia Commons)
Chef Marco Pierre White (Wikimedia Commons)

In one of the more grandiose rooms of the JW Marriott in Vittal Mallya Road, sat a white gentleman not in his Sunday best. But maybe in his most relaxed outfit. Blue jeans, a white tee and a white handkerchief fashioned into a headgear. The man could be mistaken for a sailor on a break admiring the landscape he found himself in but make no mistake, it was him – the one they call ‘the first celebrity chef’ – the enfant terrible of the UK restaurant scene, Chef Marco Pierre White. 

‘Enfant terrible’ may not be right to describe Chef Marco anymore, maybe it’s mellowing down with age. He is here in Bengaluru for the second time, and this time, he has come for a masterclass he gave that afternoon and to serve brunch to his guests on Sunday at noon. 

“Bengaluru is very green. I mean that’s rare for a city,” says Chef Marco pointing to a cluster of trees visible from the grand windows of the hotel. “Strangely what’s amazing is that I like the traffic jams here. I don’t notice the stagnancy, the eyes are always amused. By being stuck in traffic, you see things, and there is so much to see in this city,” he shares. 

Chef Marco has gone on record saying, ‘No one does spices better than the Indians’. On this, he elaborates, “I don’t think anyone understands spices like the Indians. I have carefully observed it, but I don’t think you can learn it overnight. It will take a long time to understand. When you see Indian cooks use spices or people in villages using spices in their cooking, their fingers almost act like little weighing scales. And what they end up making is delicious. Then they cook it slowly building the layers...that knowledge must have taken centuries. Indian cuisine is one of the great cuisines of the world. I don’t think it has gotten the recognition it deserves, but Indian restaurants are spreading globally.” He also goes on to point out certain similarities between Indian and French cooking.

He, who has trained notable chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Mario Batali, calls himself conventional and classical. Modernism doesn’t hold his interest. “If you look at those old three-star and two-star (Michelin stars) of the old world, they were romantic. The food was generous and served hot. The customer was the most important. Now, when you go to a two or three-star place, it’s a set menu of small portions. A food which is lukewarm and at best, tepid. There’s no romance in modern restaurants. The waiter tells you what the dishes are and how to eat them. You have one mouthful, and they come running to ask if you enjoyed it. A restaurant should never ask the customer if they enjoyed it. Allow the customer to tell you, don’t go fishing for compliments,” he says. 

He had famously returned his three Michelin stars after realising that ‘he was being judged by people less knowledgeable than him’. He believes Michelin has only grown to be more commercial. “They give the stars so easily now. In the old days, the head inspector of Europe used to say it takes a chef eight to 10 years to win three stars. Today they give it in one. It’s marketing. But they make very good tyres. If I had a car, I would have Michelin tyres, and I would have four of them and not three,” jokes a cheeky Chef Marco, who in 1995 had become the first British chef to be awarded three Michelin stars and was also the youngest at the time. 

For a man who can cook many things, what does he like to eat? “When you think of eating what you like, you think of something deliciously comforting. Something that impacts you emotionally. For example, you think of the most delicious scrambled eggs, topped with a poached egg and served on toast with a little hollandaise sauce, it’s deliciously comforting and rich. Massive calories. But see, just remember, a life without calories is not a life. The more calories, the more flavour,” concludes the chef as he walks on to start his masterclass.

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The New Indian Express