Not much time to post this morning – I’m up to London to interview Marco Pierre White and Raymond Blanc together for the September 6th issue of Caterer, whichMarco is guest-editing. Together, the two can boast five Michelin stars. Marco spent some of his formative cheffing days at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, but the two superchefs haven’t met for over a decade, so there should be lots of stories to tell when I get back to the office …
Catering colleges have suffered a few body blows in the pages of Caterer and Hotelkeeper over the past few months. First, Marco Pierre White brands them “the biggest waste of time“, in an exclusive interview with the Caterer. Then, Oliver Peyton calls college “a stop-off before you’re sent to prison“.
As you can imagine, letters and emails have been flooding in as a result. The following excerpt is representative of the many responses we have received:
“Making sweeping statements such as this is reckless and irresponsible. If I were to say that all restaurants in this country were a disgrace … people would consider me an idiot. In reality, there are some excellent restaurants in this country but many more that need to improve”.
Where do you sit in this debate? let us know either way.
I’ve now finished The Perfectionist, Rudolph Chelminski’s account of the life and untimely death of three-starred French chef, Bernard Loiseau. What a sad story.
In my first posting, I described how the first half of the book introduces Loiseau within the context of the great French chefs of the past fifty years. In the second half, the author cements the image of a chef whose gastronomic confidence and lack of personal self-confidence seem to flourish in tandem. We learn of his invention of a system of binding sauces with vegetable purées; and one of his defining creations, frogs’ legs with garlic purée and parsley juice, is described in enlightening detail. But at the same time we witness him working ever harder to hone his offering, becoming overly embroiled in building works at his restaurant and incurring mounting debts (“Bernard had mortgaged his future to Michelin”).
I’ve just got in from the Academy of Culinary Arts’ 25th annual awards of excellence, which were held at Claridges. What a spectacular night!
I need to get to sleep soon (I am meeting Marco Pierre White for lunch tomorrow to discuss his forthcoming Caterer guest editorship, and that’ll require all the energy I can muster) but I’ll briefly fill you in on the event.
The awards, which reward the best young people under the age of 26 working as chefs, pastry chefs or in service, were co-hosted by Brian Turner and Ritz Hotel Exec Chef, John Williams, who did a nice Two Ronnies turn onstage.
Sometimes you have to pinch yourself when you see your table plan: I was sat with Ramon Pajares, Michel Roux, Richard Shepherd, Jane Asher and Gerald Scarfe, among others.
After a week defined by the Cateys, it’s nice to be able to sit back and enjoy a couple of bashes laid on by other organisations this week. Last night saw the Craft Guild of Chefs’ annual awards at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London; tonight, it’s the turn of the Academy of Culinary Arts, at Claridge’s. Tomorrow, I diet …
The Guild put on their usual uptempo evening. Host with the most Alan Dewberry, who MC-ed as energetically as ever, introduced Guild stalwarts David Mulcahy and Steve Munkley as the Ant and Dec of the chef world when he invited them on stage to run through the shortlist. Later, Lilia and Darren from Strictly Come Dancing lent a little Latin pizzazz to the evening.
The Guild has a lovely tradition of giving winners a dinner jacket with its motif on the left lapel, when they go on stage to receive their award – a nice bit of theatre that reminds me of the moment the winner of the US Masters dons the green jacket.
I was thrilled to see Simon Young of the Jumeirah Carlton Tower pick up the conference and banqueting award – he did such a sterling job for us when he hosted our Chef Conference a couple of months back.
All the winners were present except Marco Pierre White, who picked up the Special award at the end of the night. There to receive the trophy for him was Marco’s group exec chef, Callum “I get free psychoanalysis as part of my salary” Watson.
I’m off to the Hospitality Action Question of Sport dinner at Wembley Stadium tonight. The idea is that guests get wined and dined, check out the stadium’s makeover and test their knowledge of sporting trivia, while the industry’s charity makes pots of cash.
I’ll report back tomorrow on what goes on. Meanwhile, to get in the mood, a few of us have racked our brains to contrive a ‘top ten’ of sportstars with hospitality connections.
Can you think of any we’ve missed?
Gordon Ramsay seemed set for a career-making sign-up to Rangers FC, before a cruciate knee ligament changed his plans. Lucky he could cook a bit …
Terry Venables Current England assistant coach, El Tel once owned a nightclub called Scribes West on Kensington HIgh Street.
Lee Dixon Former Fat Duck shareholder Lee Dixon still co-owns the Riverside Brasserie on Monkey Island.
Frankie Dettori This year’s Derby winner lent his name to the chain of restaurants he launched in partnership with Marco Pierre White.
David Coulthard co-owns Monaco’s “chic, affordable and accessible” Columbus Hotel with Malmaison mastermind, Ken McCullough.
Sir Alex Ferguson managed Fergie’s pub after his playing career ended. Downstairs bar, the Elbow Room was apparently named in honour of his robust style of play.
Together, Sir Ian Botham and Alan Lamb (AKA Beefy and Lamby), are the face of British meat.
Shoeless Joe’s Bars may not have worked out, but Victor Ubogu now runs a corporate hospitality company firm that’s got a packed summer and autumn schedule.
Roberto di Matteo followed his Chelsea career by opening two restaurants, Friends and Baraonda, a stone’s throw from Stamford Bridge.
(… to sound of barrel being scraped …) Christian minister and erstwhile heavyweight boxing champion of the world, George Foreman is now making the world a thinner place, thanks to his Lean, Mean, Fat-reducing Grilling Machine.
Forthcoming Caterer and Hotekeeper guest editor, Marco Pierre White has been over in the States recently, promoting the US release of his autobiography and, rumour has it, progressing the launch of a Frankie’s restaurant in Las Vegas.
Marco’s book – called White Slave over here but rebranded as Devil in the Kitchen for our transatlantic chums – has gone down very well. The New York Times review called it a “moving, unaffected, delightfully honest book”, and his tour has drawn a lot of media attention.
Most of the journalists despatched to interview the chef have had their questions politely answered and have then headed back to the office to file their copy. But a few, such as Bethany Jean Clement of Seattle’s free weekly alternative arts and culture newspaper the Stranger, have been ‘Marco-ed’.
Bethany’s tale of a boozy session with Marco is sure to enduce alcohol-related flashbacks in anyone else who has spent an evening with the former three Michelin-starred chef and lived to tell the tale. Her description of Marco administering his ‘house cocktail’ bears repeating.
It involves a champagne flute full of sambuca set afire, extinguished by clamping one’s hand over the glass; then the entire contents are gulped down, followed by the inhalation of sambuca fumes through a straw. “Mario [Batali, one presumes] says it’s like drinking liquid heroin!” he proclaims more than once. Dinner’s over, a crowd of admirers is circled around, supplies materialize, the PR people look stricken, and Marco demonstrates as cameras flash. I sit to his right; it takes very little goading for me to follow suit. It’s exhilarating, disgusting, idiotic. During the sucking-of-the-fumes part, Marco leans in, his face inches from mine, shouting, “SUCK HARDER! YOU’RE NOT SUCKING HARD ENOUGH!”
As someone who has carried the Mark of Marco – a champagne flute-shaped blister – on my palm, I can well appreciate how her head felt the following morning.
This week, Caterersearch features an exclusive interview with arguably the UK’s greatest ever chef, Marco Pierre White.
Marco’s attentions might these days be focused more upon his expanding restaurant empire; but he will be forever remembered as the first British chef ever to win three Michelin stars, and the world’s youngest ever chef to do so. To read his thoughts on Ramsay, handing back Michelin stars and and his decision to head up the third season of TV’s Hell’s Kitchen, click here.