INTERVIEW WITH MARCO PIERRE WHITE
LEEDS CITY MAGAZINE COLUMNISTS
NICOLA & RACHAEL HOYLE BRADWELL GET THE PRIVILEGE OF MEETING THE RENOWNED CHEF MARCO PIERRE WHITE
Representing Leeds City Magazine , myself and my wife Nicola had the great pleasure recently of meeting the wonderful Marco Pierre White at his New York Italian in Leeds. Marco was a complete gent, very warm and eager to talk about his travels, family, his love of New York , and even taking the time to share with us his failsafe Yorkshire pudding recipe.
Freshly coiffured from the hairdressers and wearing more make up than you’d see on-stage Saturday night at the Viaduct, we descended on Marco like excited puppies. We settled down next to him as he sat in his famous Signature white chair, him looking slightly wary and no doubt tired from the intense schedule of his book tour. We welcomed him back to his home town and chatted about the success of the Marco’s chain of restaurants. A large part of his career has been spent working in exotic locations like Australia for Masterchef, and at sea for his role with P&O cruises.
Nicola & Rachael: What things do you take with you to remind you of home?
Marco: When I travel, I used to have pictures of my children, because I used to spend a lot of time out of the country and I take my phone so I can be in contact with them every day. Wherever I am in the world, for example, Singapore, I’ll get the night-porter to wake me at 3am so I can call my daughter at 9am British time.
Nicola: Do you Skype a lot?
Marco: I wouldn’t know how! I wouldn’t even know how to use one of those things (points to the tablet we are using to record the interview). I’m too old.
Rachael: What restaurants do you like to eat at when you’re away?
Marco: New York is full of nice restaurants. Il Buco is my favourite in NYC, it’s in the Lower East side, and Babbo’s, Mario Batali’s restaurant is very nice. Anywhere in Greenwich village is great. You can eat really well in New York.
Nicola: Do you like to try new things when you’re abroad?
Marco: When I was working in the Caribbean with Alex James we had a lot of street food. Don’t go to a restaurant in the Caribbean, see the individuals who just cook one thing, jerk chicken for example, or goat curry, or go to a grill for black pepper shrimp which is delicious , or conch.
Nicola: Have you ever eaten anything peculiar when you’ve been away?
Marco: I’ve had wallaby before, actually. Its ok, I prefer to eat venison, or hare. It doesn’t have the flavour. There are lots of things I wouldn’t like to eat.
Rachael: As a Yorkshire chef, you must be asked a lot about the perfect Yorkshire pudding. Do you have a great recipe to share with us?
Marco: There’s so many recipes, but this is mine. You get your glass, one glass of eggs, one glass of flour, one glass of milk. Same quantities. When you put your dripping in the roasting tray, make sure it’s smoking, and then pour the batter in. If you pour in too much batter it won’t rise. That’s what I would do (putting on his best Yorkshire accent), make sure you get your dripping hot!
Rachael: Looking at pictures like this from your youth where you’re all manly and brooding (shows Marco a bare-chested picture from his autobiography), did you ever consider a career in modelling?
Marco: No, I was always in the kitchen.
Nicola: What’s the strangest thing a fan has ever asked you to sign?
Marco: Sometimes people ask me to sign their cooking pots! Or their shoulder, which I’ll never do. Lots of chefs ask me to sign their aprons. I get asked to sign lots of things really, peculiar things, but I’ll never do it. Sometimes I get asked to write peculiar things on their cookery books, or a strange name for somebody, but I won’t do it, I’ll just write what I wanna write.
Rachael: So you’re obviously a role model and an inspiration for young chefs everywhere, but what sort of qualities impress you? What do you notice in the kitchen?
Marco: I only ever look for one thing. Capacity. When someone’s got capacity they’ll go a long way. It’s quite rare. You get lots of cooks who are very technical, but very few artists, that’s something else. Lots of people paint pictures don’t they? But there are very few artists.’
At this point, excited guests and press had started to gather for their time with the ‘rock n roll chef,’ so we had to end our chat and managed to sneak a few pictures in. We thanked him for his time, and he warmly shook our hands, and kindly personalised all five of our Marco books. He was a unique and deeply interesting man, and I genuinely hope that we will meet again! At this point, we were happy to leave Marco to meet his fans, and in dire need of a stiff drink, we headed over to Marco’s restaurant to see what all the fuss is about..
Since opening its doors 12 months ago as part of the Ibis Styles Hotel at the Merrion Centre, Marco’s New York Italian restaurant has been known as providing great quality, generously portioned meals with family affordability in mind. The word on the streets is that the baby back ribs are to die for, and the brownie dessert worth breaking the diet for.
Nicola and I were ready for a delicious meal and we were not disappointed. We were ushered into the beautiful dining room, and took a booth to enjoy our feast. We had a lovely bottle of Prosecco recommended by our waiter to celebrate our job well done. Our shared starter arrived quickly, we had rosemary focaccia, and the plumpest and most delicious green olives. The bread was full of flavour and the chunks massive, perfect to soak up the complimentary oils and vinegar. As true Northerners, we like bread dipped in everything, so I was happy the focaccia portion was big enough to spread over into the main. I was glad I did because my salmon arrived smothered in the most delicious tomato sauce. The rest of the bread was soon devoured and then I happily started on the big piece of beautiful salmon and discovered lots of beans in the sauce. The whole delicious lot hidden under a herby crust. There was no sharing from me today, but I don’t think Nicola was too disappointed, as her main of The Great American burger which was impressively stacked with Monterey Jack cheese, pancetta, and sweet pickled cucumber came with a generous portion of chips and a sweet little pot of Heinz ketchup. The salad was crisp and fresh, and the burger the juiciest in Leeds. There is always room for dessert and as a cheesecake fanatic, I enjoyed the generous portion and creamy filling of Marco’s version of this classic. Nicola inspired true dessert envy though, when the hot chocolate brownie arrived, decadent with it’s side of beautiful vanilla ice cream, I’ve never seen something disappear so quick. Full and very satisfied we a coffee to finish off a delicious meal.
On first impressions, Marco’s New York Italian restaurant is very modern and reminiscent of a cool down town New York bar, but then you notice intimate details like the long Italian family style wooden table where guests chatted over drinks that encourages good conversation and memorable meals. Nicola enjoyed the open plan kitchen where we could see the magic happening, and she noticed all the kitchen staff were wearing Marco famous blue aprons.
It all looked spotless and professional, it was great to see chefs preparing delicious food in front of you. The friendly, very attentive and helpful serving staff elevated a good meal to a great one. We noticed old pictures of Marco dotted around the restaurant, his presence reassuring as he watched over the impeccable service.
On reflection, we didn’t know what to expect from the restaurant, as we are generally wary of chains. What we experienced was affordable, delicious, fresh tasting food that was delivered and served in a sumptuous and very pleasant environment. We will be back, probably to sample the 2 for 1 cocktails, and to try the delicious looking afternoon tea. I think the restaurant does Marco proud, and we look forward to going back.