FOOD & DRINK: Goodbye French Cuisine, Marco Wants Honest British Food; Marco Peirre White Is the Chef Who Is Famous for Being More ;Ery Than Gordon, but ANDY WELCH ;Nds the Man They Call the Great White in Mellow Mood as He Talks about His New Televison Series

The Birmingham Post (England), June 28, 2008 | Go to article overview

FOOD & DRINK: Goodbye French Cuisine, Marco Wants Honest British Food; Marco Peirre White Is the Chef Who Is Famous for Being More ;Ery Than Gordon, but ANDY WELCH ;Nds the Man They Call the Great White in Mellow Mood as He Talks about His New Televison Series


Byline: ANDY WELCH

With a Continental-sounding name and an illustrious career cooking the Inest French cuisine, you might not immediately associate infamous chef-terrible Marco Pierre White with British food.

However, thanks to a 44,000-mile six month trip around the UK, Leeds-born Marco, the youngest Briton to win three coveted Michelin stars, has fallen back in love with the traditional foodstuffs this country has to offer.

"I've had enough of French restaurants," says Marco, while sitting in the south London branch of Frankie's restaurant, the chain he set up with jockey Frankie Dettori.

"I admire the French, I respect them, they made me the man I am, but I'm in England.

"I'm touched by every corner of Britain every day of my life, so why not Hy the Hag?" he continues. "Every chef in Britain wants to go French, and I don't get it. I walked into that illusion when I started cooking and I stayed there for 20 years - how mad was I?"

Filming his road to discovery, Marco has been to visit farmers in the four corners of Britain, including the man he calls "the king of shrimps".

"Ah, old man Baxter, God bless his soul - he's passed away since I saw him. He made the best potted shrimps in the world. He was a good old boy, did things properly and had three ladies working for him who'd been there 30 years," he says.

"I was very lucky to see him in the Inal months of his life," he says.

"There was another guy down in West Sussex who has these big ginger pigs who roam around in the woods there. He turns them into patenegra, or his version of pate negra."

In the Irst episode of a new ITV1 show recounting Marco's travels, the 46-year-old rediscovers one of his favourite boyhood hobbies when he goes rabbiting with a gamekeeper.

"When I was a boy, those pastimes were done by working class people because they were poor," he says, referring to his impoverished upbringing on a Leeds council estate.

"People grew vegetables in their garden or on an allotment because they didn't have the money to buy good food. I think it's quite sad these things have gone now though. I think going rabbiting on a Sunday morning is a beautiful thing."

He also visits cattle farmer Bill Cassell in the Scottish highlands, enjoys a tour of the farm and samples meat from one of Britain's oldest breeds.

"I can't remember when I ate a steak as good as the one I had up there with Bill," he says, enthusiastically.

"I also get a history of some dishes, which is a great learning curve. I went to Eton to Ind out about the classic dessert Eton Mess, and to Trinity College, Cambridge, to discover creme brulee. I wanted to Ind out which came Irst, creme brulee or Cambridge burnt cream."

The series culminates with a banquet for 200 in a barn, with a menu chosen by Marco from his Indings during the course of the show; a menu he thinks best reHects Britain.

"When I think of British food I think of straightforwardness, I think of honesty, I think of a generous portion," he states.

"And I think it's that simple. Let's cook a side of pig and have great crackling. Big chunks of meat - that represents Britain."

Marco is never less than a charming host, insisting food is tasted and the wine Hows freely during our interview.

"You're sitting with the Great White, you need a glass of white," he says, laughing heartily. An imposing Igure, way over six feet tall, and, at least in his younger days, in possession of a wild temper, it's easier to say yes than no. Asked if the wine is from Britain, in keeping with the theme of his new series, he smiles, and says that's not the point of Great British Feast.

"There are wine producers in this country, but I made that decision not to visit them. I don't think there's any vineyard in Britain that can make wine as good as the French, Italians and the Spanish. …

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FOOD & DRINK: Goodbye French Cuisine, Marco Wants Honest British Food; Marco Peirre White Is the Chef Who Is Famous for Being More ;Ery Than Gordon, but ANDY WELCH ;Nds the Man They Call the Great White in Mellow Mood as He Talks about His New Televison Series
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