British chef Marco Pierre White shares his enriching experiences of India and what he believes is the future of food.
By Vaishali Dar
Celebrated British chef Marco Pierre White is known to hand back the three Michelin stars he had been awarded at the age of 33. By far, the youngest ever chef to be awarded the three stars, he doesn’t think much of awards. And by the time he received the three Michelin stars, he had great infrastructure and could survive the demands of an already high-pressure job. “Getting a Michelin star is easy but retaining them is tougher as it gets really boring,” says the 57-year-old chef, who currently runs 47 restaurants across the UK.
Known as the godfather of modern cooking and having trained notable chefs like Mario Batali, Gordon Ramsay, Curtis Stone and Shannon Bennett, White has been labelled as the first celebrity chef of the UK restaurant industry. On his recent visit to India to host a gourmet festival ‘World on a Plate’ (WOAP), the acclaimed chef gave us a detailed insight into the future of food and his enriching experiences of India.
At the time when restaurants are either going back to basics with local, sustainable produce or using virtual reality, White feels the future of food is something that’s real. “In the UK, people want something that’s real. I can’t say about the other countries but the chain restaurants are getting a very hard time trying to stay afloat. What people want is good, honest food served on their plates. The restaurants that are doing well, tend to be individually run, offer value for money and are quite honest. It’s not about selling nightlife or a table. Trends like virtual reality are things I wouldn’t think about when it comes to the future of food. It’s more about honest cooking and seasonal, sustainable produce,” he says.
Happy and excited to be back in India in just about five months, Marco admires India for its enormous emotional impact and people with beautiful souls. “India gave me more than I gave India and I’ve never felt that in my life before. India is an extraordinary and multi-dimensional country as compared to other one-dimensional countries,” he says.
White visits India with no expectations. He recounts his experiences and fascination for the local cuisine. “The diversity of Indian culture leads to diversity in food. I have not dined at any high-end or branded restaurant, and I’m happy with straightforward traditional Indian food where the regional prowess of chefs comes with a local twist to the food. I have visited Mumbai and Bengaluru and have particularly liked the south Indian cuisine, dosas and idlis, so much so that I have been ordering them for breakfast frequently,” he laughs. “I even enjoy Asian food — the Singapore braised style of cooking is one of my favourites as this kind of cooking really brings out the flavour of the food,” he explains.
For the new breed of young chefs, White advises them to read, work hard and stay focused. “If you think you’re good, you’re not good enough; the dish you cook, you think it’s good, it is not good enough. Constantly question yourself and keep striving to do better, work harder. Events like World On A Plate inspire people to cook and take up cooking as a profession, buy better produce and be better food entrepreneurs. It even inspires people to dream of opening their own ventures,” he feels.
The original bad boy of British cooking has calmed down over the years. He says that every man calms down as he grows older, “I’m not an exception. When I was younger, I was hiding behind my food. Every young person is looking for answers, trying to get a sense of their life’s purpose and existence. I achieved what I wanted to and realised that time makes you understand better.”