Marcus Wareing is an award winning chef, and currently runs his two Michelin star restaurant ‘Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley’ in London.
He has worked alongside famous names such as Gordon Ramsay and Pierre Koffmann and recently opened a brasserie in London St Pancras. Wareing has also written three cookbooks and has appeared on BBC Television show Great British Menu. He took the time to speak to Impact Food about cooking on a student budget, making his restaurant less French and why cooking shows are nothing like the reality.
YOU COOKED YOUR FAMOUS CUSTARD TART FOR THE QUEEN’S 80TH BIRTHDAY. DID YOU GET TO MEET HER AND HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHAT TO MAKE?
Yes I did meet her! The reason why I chose the custard tart was because it was the one thing which captured who I was and my upbringing. My pastry chef and I developed the mix for the custard tart. All the judges gave me a ten for it and that was one of the few times I felt I came to near perfection!
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE BEST SIMPLE DISH ON A BUDGET?
You have to say pasta as it’s so straightforward. But it’s what you do with it. It’s about how you cook it, the oil you put with it, the seasoning etc. I would want to see some fresh herbs and pot plants in the house, and fresh bread. Also a roast dinner is great. Get potatoes, some other vegetables and meat; its not hard. If all your housemates chip in ten pounds each, you could easily get yourself at least two nice pieces of meat.
YOU’RE ABOUT TO REBRAND YOUR NEW RESTAURANT TO MAKE THE SERVICE ‘LESS FRENCH AND MORE AMERICAN’. WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THIS?
When I opened this restaurant ten years ago it was called Pétrus, one of my favourite Bordeaux wines. The nature of its name makes it French. During those ten years food has changed massively and that style of food was French driven, as my training is in French style cuisine. It’s a foundation. Naturally you get stamped with that.
What’s changed is London is the way of eating and serving. There is a whole new generation of diners and people who eat in London, and we want to keep up with the times. Fine dining is now looked upon by the younger generation as a special occasion or a bit stuffy, and it’s very much a formal setting which I think is boring. New York is the best example of perfect fine dining. You can go into a three star Michelin restaurant and feel as comfortable as you would in a pub in London, which is extraordinary. It’s the staff that make that happen.
WILL YOUR NEW STYLE BE MORE APPEALING TO YOUNGER PEOPLE?
Yes and no. I am appealing to a wider audience, whether that is young, middle aged or old. First of all you have to appeal to the neighbourhood, and then more broadly to the city you’re in. I reckon the perception about this restaurant will be that you need to book six months in advance, but that shouldn’t be the case. You should be able to come and knock on the door and eat straight away to keep up with the increasing trend in the establishment of burger places, street food and vendors.
DOES THIS DETRACT FROM MICHELIN STAR RESTAURANTS? HOW DO THEY STAND TOGETHER?
I think they are just another offering, but they are not competing with us. They are just another idea and trend. You guys will go out and get that burger and a beer and you won’t be spending much less that what you would at mine on a set lunch. You just wouldn’t know that because you think ‘fine dining’ isn’t affordable given that its got two Michelin stars, and run by a well known chef. Obviously you will get hit if you spend loads of money on expensive wines, but why shouldn’t you be allowed to experience nice restaurants?
SOME CHEFS ARE CRITICISED TODAY FOR TAKING A STEP BACK APPROACH TO COOKING AND THEIR RESTAURANTS, BY VISITING RESTAURANTS REGULARLY BUT RARELY GETTING INTO THE KITCHEN. DO YOU THINK THIS IS A PROBLEM TODAY?
I get up in the morning and do what I do best: I cook, and then run a restaurant. I don’t get up and sit in a office all day. You should get someone else to do that because it’s boring. With the recession, the key is honesty. People should know exactly who you are and what you’re about. If I have 20 restaurants, great, but I will only ever go and cook in one, and have my name on one. As long as you tell people its fine.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE PEOPLE WANTING TO GO INTO THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY?
The most important thing is getting an education. If you’re into food, then get into the industry whilst you’re at university. Modern chefs need qualifications – a bit of accountancy and perhaps an understanding of management. Running a business as a chef is 20% cookery and the rest is the other 80%. Learn the inside outs of computers, the stuff that is common sense to you guys. Cover all the bases. Work hard and drive hard.
WE RECENTLY INTERVIEWED SAT BAINS FOR OUR LAST ISSUE. LAST MONTH YOU BOTH CREATED A MOUNTAIN GOURMET SKI EXPERIENCE WITH HESTON BLUMENTHAL. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?
It was a piss up! What we did was go out and do something different. If you love going to Europe, you love skiing, love food and love mixing with chefs, then it’s the dream. It was good fun and I would definitely do it again.
WHAT WERE THE FIRST DISHES YOU BEGAN TO MAKE?
One of the first things I ever made was an English breakfast. My mum did a lot of baking so I learnt pastries, and my granny made custard tarts so I learnt that pretty quickly.
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON TELEVISION COOKING SHOWS. DO YOU THINK THEY GLAMORISE THE COOKING PROFESSION?
TV is very different to cookery. I like Masterchef a lot, but it is staged. It is designed to create the tension of a real kitchen, with judges looking hard and giving comments. But they are full of people who want to be TV stars. A cookery show is no way to go if you want to be a cook, there is no reality in these sorts of cooking shows. Only a handful of people who have come out of those shows are chefs.
IF YOU HAD TO PICK THREE THINGS WHICH WERE ESSENTIAL FOR ANYONE TO HAVE IN THEIR STORE CUPBOARD AT ALL TIMES, WHAT WOULD THEY BE?
Defiantely salt and olive oil. And I’d have to say pepper. Salt and pepper are just amazing – boring but essential.
George Hughes-Davies and Louis Fitzherbert
Image credit: thesundaytimes.co.uk