Why Marco Pierre White wishes to be forgotten

‘I don’t like the term celebrity chef because I am not a celebrity, I am a cook — that’s my job,’ says Marco Pierre White. — Picture by Marco Pierre White Steakhouse & Grill's Facebook page via TODAY
‘I don’t like the term celebrity chef because I am not a celebrity, I am a cook — that’s my job,’ says Marco Pierre White. — Picture by Marco Pierre White Steakhouse & Grill's Facebook page via TODAY

SINGAPORE, Nov 30 — If there is one chef more infamous than Gordon Ramsay, it is his mentor, Marco Pierre White.

A culinary icon and the original bad boy of reality television cooking shows, White is famously the first and youngest British chef to win three Michelin stars — only to return them in 1999.

Yet, in discussing his legacy, the 54-year-old said he wishes eventually to be forgotten.

“That is what I would like ... like I never existed,” the legendary chef said in an interview with TODAY. “That’s what I am like — I have done my bit, and now I am gone, and there are now others. It would be easier for my children.”

White was in Singapore for a media conference for MasterChef Dining and Bar, a 15-day pop-up event helmed by the British chef, which will feature bespoke menus crafted by top MasterChef personalities such as Reynold Poernomo, Audra Morrice, Woo Wai Leong and Luca Manfe.

It may sound counter-intuitive to those who know White for his fiery temper on television shows such as MasterChef and Hell’s Kitchen, but it is consistent with his own insistence on being known only as a chef rather than “the first celebrity chef”, as he is often dubbed.

“Number one, I don’t like that term celebrity chef, because I am not a celebrity. I don’t have the personality of a celebrity,” said White.

“Most chefs who are celebrities tend not to achieve anything within Michelin. They are not cooks — they are personalities. There is a difference,” he added. “I am quite introverted, I lead a private life. Just because I do television doesn’t mean I am a celebrity. I am a cook, that is my craft, and that is my job.”

White, who has visited Singapore many times and plans to open a restaurant here, said he often prefers the simple family restaurants — such as Cantonese restaurant Eat First in Siglap and Asia Grand restaurant — instead of Michelin-starred establishments.

“What Michelin were and what they represented when I was a boy has now changed. When I was a boy, they wouldn’t give three stars to anyone. You’d have to win one star, prove yourself, that what you put on a plate is of a standard worthy of one star, then you’d have to work hard and prove consistency to win two stars. Then you’d have to work hard and develop your food, create consistency, and then three stars. Today, they give them (just) like that,” he mused.

“Michelin stars, to me, were stepping stones to what I wanted to be. I thank God that I saw the golden age of gastronomy, I thank God that I was part of that world, where Michelin stood for what they stood for.

“I have watched, in my opinion, Michelin dilute themselves. I don’t understand their decision-making sometimes. But let us not forget Michelin inspectors have less knowledge than the people they judge. I eat better at simpler restaurants than I eat at Michelin-starred restaurants,” White said.

Food, White believes, should be “honest and generous”, whether or not it is prepared by chefs who are famous.

“I think you eat very well in Singapore, and I know people say that Singapore is the most expensive city on earth, (but) I go to Purvis Street and I have my chicken rice — S$8 (RM24) with my barley water. Delicious!

“I go to Eat First (and spend) S$10. Is it the best food in the world? No, it is not. But is it family food? Yes, it is. It’s very Singaporean, very simple, very nice, and I sit with local people.” — TODAY

*MasterChef Dining and Bar runs until December 9 at Ash and Elm, InterContinental Singapore. Tickets for lunch (S$168+) and dinner (S$288+) are available at Sistic.

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