He was the enfant terrible of the 1980s restaurant world, a self-proclaimed “naughty boy” who once made Gordon Ramsay cry, but these days, things are looking more Zen for iconic chef Marco Pierre White. With Ridley Scott set to produce a film of his life starring Michael Fassbender, he sits down with Ryan Tubridy to talk about passion and personal transformation.
The story of Marco’s career wouldn’t be complete without a look back at the White Heat days, the project for which he collaborated with photographer Bob Carlos Clarke.
“I showed him what my vision was, to have these big black and white photographs of what kitchen life is because no one knows what kitchen life is. Bob wasn’t 100% sure but he said I’ll come round and look at a service… He became inspired by Don McCullin who did all the photographs of Vietnam because he saw kitchens as a war zone which was quite interesting, and that’s how White Heat was created. I never really got round to doing the recipes or anything and the publishers were getting annoyed with me but in a strange sort of way that was good that it was late in coming out because by the time the book came out, I’d won two stars in Michelin, and then what happened was, they only printed 15,000 copies… Within ten days, they’d all sold out. In those days to get a book reprinted, it took nine months, and so no one could buy White Heat and then they re-launched it. For twenty-seven years now, White Heat has been republished every single year… It has sold millions around the world. It’s just extraordinary.”
Everything changed for Marco when he was thirty-two years old. The death of his mother when he was just six left deep scars on his heart. He cites unexpressed grief as the reason for his wild-child behaviour. One day while working in the kitchen, Marco says he heard a voice in his head saying, Marco, who was your mother? This started a process of writing down every memory he had of her and using them to piece together a picture.
“I went though all these memories and then what I realised at the end of it was I was my mother’s son. From the age of six to sixteen, my father had programmed me to be like he was, to be that tough man, you’re knocked down, pick yourself up. I’m not that boy. I’m far too sensitive. Had my father not turned me into that boy, then I would never have survived those tough kitchens… That was the beginning of my road to self-discovery. I’m a much happier person and I’ve got the confidence to be my true self now where I never lose my temper and I never get upset. I never get angry, never raise my voice and I haven’t done that since I was thirty-two years old.”
Marco is busy with his scores of restaurants around the world, but he’s got one very special project underway.
“Now I’ve got over fifty restaurants but my one very big passion is my hotel just outside Bath which I’m turning into a farm. It’s not going to be one of those posh hotels that have a spa and people wander around in dressing gowns which is one of my pet hates!”
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