The untold truth of Marco Pierre White

Celeb chef and restaurateur Marco Pierre White is a legend in the culinary world. White is a force to be reckoned with, and has an impressive list of record-setting accolades. He left school at the age of 13 and soon began studying the art of cooking, opening his first restaurant, Harveys, while he was still in his 20s. He quickly climbed the ranks to become one of the most well-known names in the industry. By his late 30s, however, White had hung up his apron.

He would return to the cooking world as a TV star and restaurateur, but his days of working countless hours in the kitchen were behind him. Incredibly, stepping away from his first restaurant did not hurt his popularity. Today, White's career is stronger than ever, and he owns dozens of restaurants. He may be a public figure, but if you think you know this eccentric and famous chef, think again. It's time to get to know the truth about Marco Pierre White.

He wasn't the first chef in the family

It turns out that White's cooking talent is at least partially hereditary. He didn't set out wanting to become a chef, but, since his dad was one, White ended up following the family lead. While we tend to think of being a chef as a glamorous profession these days, things were a bit different when White was just starting out.

"Cooking was a working class profession," he told Fine Food Dude. "The first kitchen I walked into, in 1978, everyone in that kitchen including me came from a council estate. When I started, I just followed my father's footsteps. Had my father been a miner, I would have gone down the mines but he just happened to be a chef in the hotels and that's where I was sent."

We're pretty glad that White's dad wasn't a miner, because the world would have lost out on a spectacular culinary legend.

He says he's not a celebrity chef

Marco Pierre White revolutionized the industry, or at least the celebrity chef industry. Before he came on the scene, chefs weren't viewed as megastars like they are today, but White helped to pioneer the image of the rock star chef. His talent, early success, and good looks put him on the map, and ushered in a new generation of celebrity chefs.

His fame is indisputable, but White disagrees with being called the first celebrity chef. It's not exactly modesty that prevents him from accepting the honor, though. White simply views chefs with his level of expertise to not be celeb chef material. "I don't think I have the personality to be a celebrity, he told OX Magazine. "I always think of celebrity chefs as being individuals who tend to have cooking shows because they can't really cut it in the industry, but they're very good at assembling food."

He made Gordon Ramsay cry

White is known for his tough personality. He's so hard on his employees that he made his one-time protege, Gordon Ramsay, cry. Ramsay's own brash personality is well-noted, so anyone who can bring him to tears has to be pretty tough. Given the ongoing feud between Ramsay and White, it might be easy to dismiss the story of White making Ramsay cry as mere tabloid fodder, but White admitted to the incident in his memoir (via Independent). "I don't recall what he'd done wrong but I yelled at him and he lost it," wrote White.

"Gordon crouched down in the corner of the kitchen, buried his head in his hands and started sobbing. 'I don't care what you do to me,' he said as he wept. 'Hit me. I don't care. Sack me. I don't care.'" Needless to say, the relationship between the two chefs disintegrated after that, and they still aren't on speaking terms.

He once spent a night in jail

He may be (more or less) a reformed character in his middle age, but back in his bad boy days, White's hot temper got him into trouble. In 2005, the chef spent a night in jail after being accused of assaulting his wife, Mati White. She called the police as an argument escalated, and White was taken into police custody.

Tabloids ate up the news, but the Whites quickly defused the situation. White denied hitting his wife, and Mati herself said her husband hadn't hurt her but that she had slapped him. She claimed she never expected White would be arrested and simply wanted him out of the house. "It was a mistake and an over-reaction on my part," she told Telegraph. "I was trying to get his attention, more than anything else."

The allegations may have been false, but it was a sign of underlying turmoil in the relationship. Within a few years, White and Mati (who is his third wife) had separated. While they haven't divorced, they lead separate lives.

He's not into gimmicks

While many celeb chefs are all about finding new and exciting ways to prepare their dishes, White is notorious for keeping things old school. "I'm a classicist and always will be," he told Wanted. "I'm not a person who thinks you can reinvent the wheel."

According to White, who was trained in classic French style cooking, the key to a good meal is not innovation, but precision. "The classical marriages are the foundation of all good cooking," he said. "You must use your brain to rethink them, make them relevant, give them a contemporary beauty."

To White, simplicity and refinement are essential aspects of any good meal. You won't find any gimmicky dishes in his restaurants. "I believe that Mother Nature is the true artist," he said. "We're just the cooks." Who can argue with someone with such a long and illustrious career as White?

Early success wasn't all it's cracked up to be

Some people spend decades working at their careers, waiting for their big break. That wasn't the case for Marco Pierre White. For him, success came early, but it was not without its drawbacks. White was the youngest person to be awarded three Michelin stars, at the age of 33. The chef was working between 80 and 90 hours a week to accomplish the extraordinary feat. Soon after winning his stars, though, ennui set in.

"Winning stars is exciting, and it has to be the most exciting journey for any chef, but once you have won three it becomes rather mundane because all you are is a well-oiled machine," he told OX Magazine. "There's so much at risk that you're no longer being creative. To win three stars, you have to be extremely creative, but to maintain them you have to be consistent."

White said that, after winning the stars, he "found it all rather boring, really."

He hates the Michelin Guide

You would think having a few Michelin stars under his belt would mean you'd approve of the Michelin Guide, but White actually hates it. Nine years after becoming the youngest person to be awarded three Michelin stars — not to mention being the first British person ever to achieve this feat — White returned them. He explained to The Taste that the ranking system simply isn't what it used to be.

"In that first guide, eight restaurants got three stars," he said. "In year one. In the old days you had to earn your stars and prove consistency over many years." White noted that when he was younger, to win three stars you had to truly earn it. Today, however, the system has changed and White believes Michelin stars are handed out indiscriminately by people who don't really understand cooking.

"[The stars] are worthless," he said. "Because you are being given them by people who have less knowledge than yourself."

He considers himself creative, but not necessarily intelligent

To achieve the level of success White has reached requires talent and skill, but does it require intelligence? If you ask White, that answer is "no." After speaking at the University of Oxford, White told OX Magazine that the experience had been an intimidating one. "The first thing I thought was 'I'm not an educated man,'" he said. "I didn't do particularly well at school and all of a sudden I'm speaking at the Oxford Union. I found it quite nerve-wracking. I'm not normally nervous but I definitely was before I spoke."

He added that speaking at a place "where you know that everybody who's in the room is more intelligent than you is very humbling." White might not consider himself to be overwhelmingly intelligent (although we would beg to disagree), but he does say that he has a lot of creativity, which is what helped him become so successful. "To win three [Michelin] stars is all about creativity," he said.

He never reads reviews

How does one deal with the pressures of public life and constantly being in the press? For White, the answer is easy: never read the reviews. "I've never read them," he told Buzz. "I don't read the papers and if someone was to write something not very pleasant then that's their choice isn't it, it's one man's opinion."

White also stays away from other forms of media. While he does have Twitter and Instagram accounts, neither one has posted anything since 2016, and judging by what White revealed in his 2018 interview with Buzz, someone else may have been running them. "I don't watch the news, I don't watch TV," he said. "I'm quite old fashioned really in that sense. Even if I knew how to work Twitter or Instagram I wouldn't do it, because then you're allowing people into your life, aren't you? If there's one thing I've learnt is, privacy is freedom."

Today, White is content to lead what he calls "a quite simple life," as far from the spotlight as a man of his fame can manage.

He prefers seclusion

White's desire to live out of the limelight is about more than avoiding press coverage. He learned the hard way that fame can be fickle, and grew tired of the pressure of being in the public eye. In an interview with The Guardian, he admitted that, while he achieved success at a young age, he was "very unhappy and in great pain" at the height of his fame. 

"Work was a painkiller; it was where I hid," he said. "I was very young, and all of a sudden one day the world descended on me."

White added that city life isn't for him, and he prefers to live a more secluded lifestyle. "I live in Wiltshire with my beehives and my orchards and my dovecotes, and I'm much happier," he said. "I have my hens and my guinea fowl and my geese. You'll never see me at award ceremonies." It's not the life you might expect from someone who could be living a rock and roll lifestyle, but you have to admire White's determination to live life on his own terms.

This is what he would want as his death row meal

Some people might want a lavish feast as their last meal, but Marco Pierre White — in keeping with his cooking style — would choose simplicity. In fact, if he could choose his last meal, it wouldn't even be about the food. Far more important than his last meal would be the people he shared it with. "At that stage in the game who cares — it's about who you sit with, I'd love to sit down and have a nice bottle of red with the people I love," he told The Taste. "The thought of eating bores me senseless on my last night on Earth. It's about the moment, with the people I love."

That being said, White does appreciate a good meal. "I like eating and I want to be fed and fed well," he said. "I just like very simple food — a plate of a dozen oysters, give me Burdock's cod in batter with malt vinegar and salt — delicious, I love it!"