Winter 2008 - Chef profile - Marcus Wareing

12/04/2013 11:04
Marcus Wareing, chef owner Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, age 38.

How did you get where you are today?
Ever since I put my head chef’s hat on at 25 I’ve grown. I keep stacking the blocks up and building the wall and keep going. It’s a wonderful industry – no two days are the same. Cooking is being in the kitchen, being with the team and with the food – and I haven’t reached my goals yet.

What is a typical day for you?
Breakfast at home with the family at 7am; arrive at the restaurant at 8am. The morning is filled with paperwork, meetings and food preparation. Lunchtime service begins at noon and continues until 3.30-4pm, or even later on a Friday. The afternoon involves more meetings and paperwork. Our first dinner guests arrive at 6pm and I spend the evening in the kitchen, generally working on the hot plate and greeting guests as they are escorted through to the kitchen. At about 11pm I head for my office to catch up on emails. At midnight or sometimes later I head home for a bowl of Shreddies, to watch some TV and go to bed before it all starts again.

Looking back, you’ve competed in many competitions and even the Great British Menu could be described by some as having a competitive edge. Do you think these competitions help to improve cooking skills?
I don’t think you should become obsessed with competition work because your job is about cooking in restaurants. Competitions should not detract away from the job which is about working in kitchens. Competition work is very much a one off event which you study for and work towards, and it’s great to see good shining talent coming through. The Great British Menu wasn’t a competition but the way it was shown made it look like one. It makes good television.

What advice would you give to young chefs?
Work in restaurants that will help you reach your goal and develop your skills.

Who or what has inspired you most during your career?
Realising what great produce we have in Britain and doing the Great British Menu three years ago which showcased our produce. There is no single person that has inspired me but a collective group of people that I have worked with. I think you should be open minded. I’ve never been mentored by one person.

Which chefs have you enjoyed working with most?
My current team – they are young, inspiring, enthusiastic, incredibly hard working and very loyal.

Who is your role model in the culinary world?
Thomas Keller from the French Laundry and Per Se.

What is your view of today’s celebrity chefs?
I think a chef is called a celebrity but it doesn’t make them a celebrity. There are a lot of people on TV that have a fantastic business beyond that. Being branded as a celebrity chef doesn’t make them a bad or a good person. It’s a huge advantage to your business, and good for book sales. There are some who don’t have anything and it’s those who want desperately to get on our TV screens to be noticed. You have to draw the line somewhere.

Talking of books, you have another book in the pipeline. What is it going to be about?
It’s called Nutmeg and Custard and comes out in September next year. It’s from my first original idea [custard tart with nutmeg] for the Queen’s 80th birthday lunch – comfort food that you like to make. It’s food I grew up with and made as a child.

Does this kind of food appear on the menu at your restaurant Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley?
There are elements of it at The Berkeley but I’ve restructured it for the home. There are techniques in the book. You wouldn’t be able to identify what I’ve taken from my home and my work kitchen. It [the book] is incredibly user friendly.

You have just joined forces with foodservice operator Aramark. What is involved in this partnership and how much of your time will it take up?
I shall be mentoring chefs in their fine dining sector. It’s not going to be my name above a restaurant door or ‘cooking with Marcus Wareing’. It’s about working with seven to eight head chefs in Aramark’s key accounts where there is fine dining, to improve the level of cookery and service. They will spend more time in my kitchen. My job is to keep them on their toes and get them thinking. Their kitchens are different but their cooking is of exceptional quality. My job is to bring in new techniques, new ideas on fine dining to the table. It’s not going to change over night and it won’t take a year – it will go beyond a year. But I have an open contract with them.

What do you think the next food trend will be?
Simple dining, good food and good value.

How do you spend your time outside work?
I relax and enjoy spending time with my family. The whole of Saturday morning is devoted to watching my sons play football in the local park.

Do you encourage your children to cook?
My children – Jake, Archie and Jessie – don’t need to be encouraged. As soon as I put my apron on at home they put theirs on.

What are your goals?
Keep writing books; a third Michelin star. Independence, which I’ve got, and growing my company and looking at opportunities. I want to expand with the talent I’ve trained, at my pace.

What would you be if you weren’t a chef?
I think I would have gone into my dad’s business, a fruit and potato merchants, but that wouldn’t have been very exciting.

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