Marco Pierre White
As chef’s go Marco is up there with the greats, upon receiving an email with a press release regarding Marco arriving in Hull at the Double Tree Hilton my instant response was that I would like to attend dinner and wanted to meet Marco.
Back in the day I was a chef for Sir Terrance Conran, I was taken on at Quaglino’s 16 Bury Street after a gruelling and nerve racking trial. I arrived in London after not being there since I was a child, nervous, worried and didn’t even know how to use the tube (give me time I was seventeen and naive). So I arrived for my trial, one friend from catering school worked there but wasn’t in the kitchen during my trial.
There was a huge box of pineapples and a knife, a bloody huge knife. I was told if I could cut the pineapple paper thin so you could see light through it the job was mine. Sixty strong brigade, five women and minimal English people was daunting, impressive and distracting but also I felt like I’d met my long lost family. I’d hungered for this, catering school looked like a little playground full of kids. This was raw, loud, fast and full of faces I’d never met. Brat pans the size of a family bath, crabs trying to escape and an army of kitchen porters for your every whim.
The shouts of “yes chef” rules on the wall not to talk, an intercom in the ceiling talking to staff and adrenaline like I’d only seen on the tele… I was an avid food fan but didn’t know as much about about creativity as I do now.
Focus Sydell, you can do this…. You need to leave Hull and have this adventure is all I could think. The first couple were crap to say the least then I focused. I’d done it, guy who’d given me the once in a life time chance came over, he inspected my work and looked at me. Then I heard “they get done on the slicer” it’s the equivalent of telling a chef to cut flour I’d been done over but it did me good and guy gave me the job. If you’ve ever been hungry so bad for something and got it you’ll know that the pit of your stomach feels like you’ve lost but won. I proceeded to throw up all over the train on my way home, fear struck me and I went home and packed up. This was it, my way out and my way to freedom had been given to me. Many chefs come through from trauma, broken lives and disarray and I wasn’t any different.
Chefs are passionate people, maybe beasts, we live for the adrenaline rush and we might whine about hours, pressure and drinking to oblivion but true chefs thrive from the prep list and numbers we serve.
My career as a chef had evolved, there’s a natural progression as a chef to where you end up, mine is cheffing, blogging, being a published writer, travelling for food and private consultancy work for the trade. I wake up like a machine 24/7 emails, calls, meetings and cooking every day.
The day came when Marco was in Hull, I’d spent days thinking of logical questions to ask him and even put on a chef page that i’d like suggestions. Yeah they pretty much went out the window and my mind went blank. I turned up, dressed up Dior, Chanel and all but honestly I could of been wearing rags for all it mattered I felt like I had gone numb. I saw Marco in the foyer and froze.
There he was the man billions adore, admire and desire to meet and here’s me this little girl again, legs like jelly, you might laugh and think where’s your balls now Sydell? If you read my work and follow me on any or all of my media I’m like a bull… Nope not tonight, sorry Sydell I reverted back to a nervous child in a panic attack.
Directed by Helen, who set up he meeting all us “press” were placed on a table together. I’m not really keen on meeting local writers it’s not personal I just think I don’t mix. However, I have to say I was sat around with some good folk who made me feel at least a little less nervous. Hannah from the HDM moved seat and then right to the left of my eye there was Marco at the opposite end of the table.
If there was moment you’d meet your maker this was it, the moment that I feel will define my future… Look, I’m a girl with ambition I have no time to play around this was and is the real deal. Marco sat down to my left, right next to me. What the hell am I going to do now? HELPPPPPPP
Drive and Passion
Thankfully a lady from the Journal started the questions, a natural and wonderful progression took place. Like a river running through rocks and pebbles the flow was gentle, toned well and peaked. I was naughty through sheer exhilaration and jumped in to a conversation, Marco turned and let me know I’d have my turn (rightfully so, I was rude and too eager) Marco was versed, it was human, relatable and without doubt whole heartedly a pleasure to listen to.
His drive and passion rose from being told he’d amount to nothing and fear this made him, it made him who is now. Isn’t that relatable and a reflection of so many of us. I loved his words of making things positive rather than negative, not rushing cooking so you can give the best food to the best of your ability. Better a steak be ten minutes late, perfect then fast and ruined for timing.
I waited quietly after listening, taking in conversation, body language and being reassured many times by Marco tapping my hand that I would get my turn and he hadn’t forgotten me. I felt like a teen who’d got a crush and prayed my red flush which is new and uncontrollable wouldn’t surface but how on earth can I not be attracted to someone of such greatness and wisdom. I’m not trying to be sappy and silly he’s a man hundreds of my chef friend want to meet and we’d all spoken about me meeting him that day.
I started my opening conversation about Sir Terrance, you see when I hit London it was the height of cuisine, we was all buzzing, all high and all fighting to be better. London had a buzz and working for Conran gave you a key to the city!
I began to explain my role, not even a commis chef, thirteen months later running three sections, “you must have been a baby Sydell” said Marco. I smiled I bloody love this game people always think I am younger and rightfully so. I replied I have a son and I am forty and sat back in the chair and waited… this wasn’t the first time I’ve had that reaction and it won’t be the last but it was the sweetest one! Puzzled I went on to mention I’m heading to London this weekend I said I’d be going to my favourite place in London Bibendum. Bibendum by Claude, if you know you know, it’s cool chic and it’s divine I’ve often sat with a Caesar salad (readers know this is my fave eat and I’ll search high and low for a perfect reflection of a true, stylish classic Caesar)
Coffee, water and a paper and sit linen on knee, perfect red lipstick in the front of Bibendum for at least and hour. Marco smiled and mentioned Claude the reflection of endearment towards the nod of a Conran stable and without doubt elegant place was remarkably striking. That was when I knew there was something there, a real connection and that moment felt like there was no one but me and Marco.
He asked “are you a food critic, which was a reasonable assumption my reply is yes of sorts but I am also a chef and a restaurant consultant. A rip raw reply, which I loved of you must be very rich. Well I actually didn’t know where to look I laughed and joked that I’d left the ex with the house and kitties. Whether that’s true or not isn’t really any ones business but it was an ice breaker and well I quite like the thought of being Mrs White (Sorry Marco, apologies) I said that I thought because of my French classical training I had an advantage, I can understand food and delivery.
I suggested that I think people should serve time in the industry before judging it in both the front and back of house, and Marco was in agreement bad press, bad reviews can stem from no knowledge as can bad write ups with an axe to grind none related to the food, venue and atmosphere at all and more to do with a personal fear of someone’s success.
I mentioned that confidence come with time in the kitchen, we all take a beating (vocally) in the kitchen and it can definitely define your role in the future as a chef. Confidence builds as you grow and I got a gentle nod and intense looking in the eyes when we spoke, I didn’t mind he’s a man of passion and I couldn’t stop being more involved in thinking I was the luckiest girl in the world in that moment.
The food was perfection, scallop to start Marco insisted I start to eat and kindly offered me his drink which I took and enjoyed. The main of steak with Bernaise was the most well seasoned, juicy and succulent meat I have tasted in a very long time and I devoured the chocolate mousse like it was a drink without a single ounce of guilt.
The Double Tree is actually very glam, my kind of spot actually and I regret not going sooner!
We all got called up for a book mines was signed Sydell, RESPECT Marco… I honestly can say I am unsure I can top that feeling, that night and that hour.
Marco being in Hull, talking and sharing about his love for rhubarb crumble and teaching me the finer art of making a souffle were moments billions hunger for literally so guess what I am making when I have time, soufflé and I am blogging it because despite all the hostile chefs who mock me over it Marco encouraged me.
Thank you for the time Helen, Marco and the Double Tree you’ll always be special and you’ll always be a memory.
Article by Sydell Brigden