Saturday, 25 April 2009

Marco: The Making of Marco Pierre White, Sharpest Chef in History - Charles Hennessy

Advantages: A great read. Say no more!

Disadvantages: None

You get your moneys worth here! 

This excellent book is a compelling read. It is of course a biography, and it gives us all we should know in such a book, but it is written in such a clever way that Marco Pierre White remains the enigma that he is - his peculiar way is not removed by the writer's words. 

For those who don't know, Marco Pierre White is one of the world's top chefs. Like many who make it to the top, it is debateable whether or not they have got to the top for their actual talent or on their particular brand of charisma - or perhaps it might be fitting to call this charisma a part acted out on life's stage?? Marco Pierre White displays personal traits, when he is in the public eye, which exude a certain commanding charisma, he calmly, but firmly when necessary, lets everyone around him know who is in charge. 

I have never tasted his food. If I had the opportunity, I doubt I would say the right thing. I know my palate is just not sophisticated enough. I will never be in a position to taste his food. I am not a wannabe chef, so I am not really interested in his cooking style. My only experience (till reading this book) of Marco Pierre White was through the box in the corner of the room. He is nothing but a character on the television to me. He has entertained me with his way of being, so I see him as an entertainer - a television personality. He is almost a cartoon character, almost a parody of a working class boy who has attained a faux-posh voice so that he can get on in life. 

That is what happened. Marco Pierre White grew up on a Leeds housing estate, decided somewhere along the line that he wanted to be a top chef, and did just that. I don't believe that he had the put-on posh voice back in the days of his Yorkshire childhood, a childhood he is evidently very fond of, and this comes through in his cooking. 

So we get to the book. To paraphrase Marco Pierre White, it will take you on a journey, it will lead you down a path. Naturally it starts with a scene from Marco's childhood, involving a more sophisticated version of scrumping, except this doesn't involve an orchard and orchard-keeper. This involves game and the local Earl. Immediately we get to see where Marco's love of hunting and food began. 

The obvious path of the book is through his formative years. Clearly a 'mummy's boy'. This has stayed with him all his life. His love of the foods of childhood are clearly linked to times spent with his mother in his youngest years. 

It is clear if you have seen Marco Pierre White that he is driven and self-motivated. This shines through in the inevitable. 'leaving home' chapter. From here the book follows through the struggle. or perhaps not so much a struggle but a path of inevitability that the motivated understand lies ahead of them. 

Whether that path involved the want to become a top chef, or the want, need or desire to become a fussy and intricately observant businessman, you will decide when you read this book. 

And of course Marco Pierre White has a personal life, romances, marriage, children, ups and downs, falling-outs and makings-up. Marco Pierre White doesn't just experience these like the rest of us, he deals with them. He faces everything head on. Marco has big disagreements with people - he is bound to, he has an ego as do his friends, enemies and business partners. He is also very forgiving and generous - or is that political? Is it Machiavellian? 

This book has everything you would want from a biography - and more! The book is sprinkled throughout with separate sections of quote, anecdote and recall from those who are close, or have been close to Marco. Words of warmth towards this man seem to be at the fore. There is also an end section of recipes, attempt them at your peril! 

Books about Marco Pierre White tend to go out of print quickly, as a consequence they keep their second hand value. If you can find a copy of this expect to pay about £16 to £20.

The Making of Marco Pierre White Charles Hennessy

Summary: This is a wonderfully entertaining read, pricey 2nd hand, but well worth it.