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.