Marcus Wareing: MasterChef: The Professionals has been the biggest gift and pleasure
Lauren Taylor catches up with Michelin-starred chef Marcus Wareing to find out about his earliest memories of food, biggest achievements and worst disasters
IT'S nice to know even Michelin starred chefs have had complete disasters in the kitchen at some point. For Marcus Wareing it was having to throw 1,000 fish mousses in the bin.
We grilled the chef, who heads up three restaurants – Marcus, Tredwells and The Gilbert Scott – on the memories of food that have really stuck with him.
:: What's your earliest memory of food?
"Roast dinners at home, every single Sunday, when I was a school kid. I'll never forget them, they've been there all my life.
"But there were two things it was about: the meat – it never had any blood in it, it was always overcooked; and the vegetables never had crunch – they were cooked until they were completely overcooked.
"I always remember the smell in the kitchen, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Carrots and swede mashed up, potatoes roasted until they were crispy as anything – they were always good, and there was always a good gravy – but the meat was always overcooked, always."
:: Have you had any big kitchen disasters?
"Always! That's how we learn. Overcooking things, putting things on plates that weren't quite right. Cooking disasters, your life's littered with them. When you work in really fantastic kitchens you learn by, 'I've done something wrong', and I think always the thing you do the most as a chef is you overcook things.
"I remember once, when I was at the Savoy Hotel and there was a banquet, we used to do fish mousse terrines and we used to make them for at least up to 1,000 people, so you'd be making quite a lot of fish mousse.
"And I remember on more than one occasion actually, overcooking the terrines for a banquet of 800-1,000 people. When the chef turns around to you and says, 'They are overcooked, they're split, we can't use them, throw them in the bin and start again' – that is a cooking disaster.
"I was a trainee but you know what, we weren't trained, we were just thrown in at the deep end. We weren't trained how to make these mousses – it's a recipe you're passed from the chef and the recipe is to make a kilo and you have to make 40 kilos.
"But the difference between making one kilo and 40 kilos is a completely different recipe – but no-one tells you how to do that so you're sort of learning by error. That was one of the hardest parts about working in large kitchen hotels at that time."
:: What's your culinary highlight?
"For me being asked to come on to MasterChef: The Professionals I think was the biggest gift, accolade, pleasure, to be able to go on and find the undiscovered talent, which would never have been discovered if it wasn't for MasterChef. That has to be one of the biggest highlights of my career.
"You get 48 chefs come in and it's the people that make it really different and exciting. The chefs are getting better. They don't come on better but they do evolve quicker – they need to have an ability to pick up knowledge very quickly.
"They don't come on as talented as when they finish – they come on struggling, unsure, nervous and worried, then they go through this real tough process of the competition, and you watch them shine and grow.
"A great winner is someone with an open mind, a winner that's going to listen. And someone who has an undiscovered talent – what I mean by that is they're very good but they don't know it."
:: Marcus Everyday by Marcus Wareing, photography by Susan Bell, is published by HarperCollins, priced £20. Available now.