Culinary maestro Marco Pierre White doesn’t cook in his Sheffield restaurant, but he reckons he knows the recipe to its success.
“The future now is casual dining. It is not only because of the recession. It’s down to a social change,” said the Leeds-born chef at a meet and greet event for 230 Sheffield diners.
“In my parents’ day people ate out a couple of times a year. Now they want to eat out once or twice a week, be it a special celebration, a business lunch or a family get-together,” he told Business Monthly during a visit to the third in his “affordable glamour” Marco’s New York Italian chain, sited alongside the new Hampton By Hilton Hotel at what was the old West Bar Police Station
“This restaurant gives them good food and affordable glamour in an ambient setting which fits all occasions,” he explained. “Ambience is now as important as the food. So is service and value. Like everyone, I go out of a restaurant thinking; did that meal deserve every pound out of my pocket?”
Marco gained the extremely rare accolade of three Michelin stars at just 33 and had Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal working under him. But he handed back his stars in 1999 and now shuns the spotlight. “To think of yourself as famous or important, I think you have to be a very strange and peculiar person,” he says. “I crave ordinariness. I’m not seen in public unless I’m working.”
He handed back his stars “because winning them was the most exciting journey of my life. But defending them became boring and I didn’t want to be one of those chefs who aren’t in their own Michelin-starred kitchens any more but still charge £300 a head for dinner. I come from the old world where a chef’s workplace was always behind his stove.
“My name is above the door in Sheffield, yes - but I’m not charging hundreds for Michelin star cuisine.”
Marco is an inspirational figure. He left school at with no qualifications and arrived in London at 16 with just £7.36 to train under Albert and Michel Roux at Le Gavroche. But he warns starstruck young chefs not to fantasise about fame. “When I was a lad cheffing was a trade, like being a brickie or a sparkie. It still is,” he said. “Any young person who goes into it expecting something glamorous is kidding themselves.”