BENGALURU: The idea of interviewing legendary chef, Marco Pierre White – nobody tires referring to him as the person who made ‘Gordon Ramsay’cry, – is an intimidating one, but you do it because when the stars align and Marco agrees to talk to you, the conversation is memorable, informative and one for the books. In Bengaluru to attend the second edition of culinary festival, World On A Plate, Marco sat down for a relaxed chat. Edited excerpts
What gives you purpose to get out of bed and face the day ahead?Struggle. Struggle is very important in a person’s life. Without it, you take everything for granted. So, therefore, even if you don’t possess struggle, you create struggle. It keeps you getting up early in the morning, it keeps you going to work; it keeps you creating. Where there’s no struggle, there’s no creation.
Literally or metaphorically, what keeps you up at night?
Insomnia. I love insomnia. I am a very light sleeper. Metaphorically speaking, I always sleep with one eye open. I am always aware of my environment. I am always processing my thoughts, I never really fall into a deep deep sleep. I call it paranoia (laughs). And no, it doesn’t get tiring.
A food trend in the last few years that has you perplexed/unamused?
I am never amused by trends, I am confused by them. Chefs have been scientists for years without them realizing they are scientists – I am talking about working with temperatures, chemical reactions – so when they talk about ‘molecular cuisine’ what does it mean? What did they even invent apart from peculiar combinations in small portions? It’s like a canapes party where you have little mouthfuls of tepid food, which looks pretty and then the waiter asks you, ‘Did you enjoy your food?’ Well, the truth is ‘No’. There wasn’t enough of it for me to enjoy. Where’s the emotional impact? Where’s the indulgence? ‘Molecular cuisine’ was simply an extension of la cuisine nouvelle, which is why no one talks about it anymore.
A food trend that you love?
Honesty in cooking. All those people who cook delicious food you want to eat: all they want to do is feed people.
What is that one thing about you that surprises people when they get to know you?
How tall I am. But the main thing is this: people can’t believe how calm I am.
What was your childhood nickname?
I didn’t have one. I guess Marco is one of those names you can’t change.
What has been the most unusual but effective advice that anyone has ever given you?
When I was a young boy there was a man called Mr Douglas, and Mr Douglas said to me, ‘Look at my hand. What do you see?’ And I said, ‘A palm’. He said, ‘That’s not right because I see four knuckles’. What he taught me was that the same thing can be seen very differently. But what he never told me, and what I discovered in my 40s was that what he was really saying was, ‘Never allow the obvious to blind you. Always allow the obvious to make your decision, because most of us look at something for what we want it to be, we never look at it for what it really is.’
A dish of yours that your kids love to eat…
They love risotto, but remember this: Children are quite lazy eaters, so they want something that they can eat is simple.
Forget the Michelin stars, how was your relationship with (late) food critic and writer AA Gill?
He was one of my best friends. As was Anthony Bourdain. Those two were my great friends. And as writers, I don’t think there’s anyone yet taking their crowns. They were great.
Are shows like MasterChef Australia doing a service or a disservice to the F&B industry?
If I walk through the streets of India today and people recognize me, it is because of MasterChef Australia. The show inspires people to want to cook, to want to work in the industry. If you consider the contestants, it’s like 85 % of them never go back to what they were before they got into the show. So you have to say that MasterChef is a life-changing show. It doesn’t teach people how to cook; what it does is it inspires people to cook, to eat. Look at what Anthony Bourdain did. He never cooked, what he did was he showed people how to eat, how to enjoy food, to experiment with food. He inspired them to want to go out and travel and discover themselves through food.
Is there a food philosophy that you have followed from the time you started your career as a chef?
Perfection is a lot of little things done well. But what I will say is that all great cooks have three things in common. Firstly, they accept and they respect that Mother Nature is the true artist and they are just the cook. Number two: Cooking becomes an extension of themselves. And number three: They give you a great insight into the world they were born into, the world which inspired them and they set it on their plates. Now, I am going to be brutally honest here: Never forget that a story is more important than a recipe. A story can inspire you but a recipe can confuse you. And remember that the more you do on a plate, the more you take away from a plate. Allow the food to be herself. Cooking for me really is a philosophy. It is not a recipe, unless its pastry, then its chemistry.
What’s on your bucket list of things to do and places to go?
I don’t have a bucket list. A bucket list is really a preparation for the end, isn’t it? And I am not ready yet, I’ll make my bucket list when the end is near. As for places to go, I have been fortunate in my life that I have travelled to a lot of countries and I have seen a lot of the world. Some of the places, I’d have loved to have spent more time. I’d love to discover more of India. Overall, what I have learnt in my life by travelling the world is that the poor make better cooks than the rich. That is what I have seen.

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