Marco Pierre White is now the 'monk' in the kitchen
The original rockstar chef, Marco Pierre White, on his first visit to Delhi proves he is anything but the ‘devil in the kitchen’
Once upon a time in London, there lived an enfant terrible. A self-proclaimed ‘Devil in the Kitchen’, he would famously make a budding chef named Gordon Ramsay break down in his kitchen; would not suffer a qualm for throwing out patrons if he thought they were being disrespectful to his staff, or—horror of horrors—to his food by asking for something as insipid as fries to go with his heavenly creations.
This was in the late 1980s and not much had changed in the 2000s. The politically incorrect star chef landed in hot water last year for suggesting that women chefs were too emotional and not strong enough to carry heavy pans in the kitchen. Are appearances deceptive? Marco Pierre White is anything but the ‘devil’. On the other hand, the original rockstar chef is charming and affable. “There never was a devil. Of course, I have done my share of naughty things when I was a young man, but at the end it’s all about heaven up there and us here below,” says the once-fiery chef in an almost Zen-like statement.
There was a time not too far in the past when Marco would charge a patron an astronomical amount if he dared ask for potatoes on the side with a dish that absolutely did not require the tuber. Today, the 58-year-old champions the cause for ‘price moderation’. “I’m not political, but I cannot close my eyes to what is around me. There are scores of people going hungry, especially in a place like India. I would want proper skill management and job creation that would help the hungry of the world to earn a living and have a full meal every day,” he says, on the sidelines of the World on a Plate and the DLF Food Excellence Awards in Delhi.
His recent travels in India have reaffirmed his love for the country and its cuisines; he says that it has always been “inexplicably there”. His cult-like status guaranteed that chefs at the hotels where he stayed pampered him royally. After all, it is not every day that you get to cook for Marco Pierre White. A chef-turned-restaurateur, today he is a consultant with countless fine dining places globally. Will we ever see his imprint in India? “I don’t know. I would surely love to do it some day, but then I would have to work around the prices as I would want more people to taste what I offer.”
The masterchef who owes his desi fame to reruns of Masterchef on telly has a mixed take on Indian food. “It’s delicious. The smells, the colours, the flavours, the mix of spices, it is all such a perfect blend. I believe Indian food is yet to reach its true potential. There is so much that can be done,” says the chef who confesses to looking forward to eating desi khana someday. One wishes that this chef who inspired a generation is treated beyond the typical ‘butter chicken’ and ‘biryani’ and is taken on a true Indian gastronomical adventure. It would be a crying shame if Marco Pierre White goes back without getting a taste of the culinary magic that India can churn outside its fine dining places.
What does the ‘Godfather of Modern Cooking’ have to say about the evolution of the professional kitchen since his days? “Cooking has been made a lot more easy today. With every kind of gadget around, chefs hardly have to use the knife,” says the original Masterchef who hung up his apron and walked away from the stove at the age of 37, returning his three Michelin stars because “they are my past now. My future is somewhere else.” Looks like the ‘devil’ has indeed achieved Nirvana.