Behind the piercing stare and no nonsense menu sits the double Michelin star winning chef that has changed the Great British cookery scene. Marcus Wareing is a man who needs no introduction; beginning his career at The Savoy Hotel aged 18, Marcus has gone on to work in some of the world’s most famous restaurants as well as opening two of his own; ‘Marcus’ at The Berkeley and ‘The Gilbert Scott’ at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. He has published countless cook books, starred in BBC’s Great British Menu and has recently joined the MasterChef team, judging competing chefs alongside Monica Galetti and Gregg Wallace.
So where did it all begin and how did he go from a kitchen in Southport to one of London’s most luxurious five star hotels? ‘I started early, at the age of ten, helping my Dad who was a fruit and vegetable merchant deliver fruit and vegetables to local businesses. My first job in a kitchen was at a local hotel in Southport, my brother was working in the kitchen and I joined him – it was one of the hotels my Dad’s business supplied to in fact.’ With the drive and dedication to follow his passion Marcus went on to make his first steps in a career that would change his life, ‘I have always wanted to work, so during the day I delivered fruit and veg and then I went to the hotel to work in the kitchen in the evening. That led me to catering college at Southport Polytechnic.’
Wareing left college with a City and Guilds in catering and a reputation for being the top student. He quickly got a job at The Savoy and working in the kitchen became his life. He left five years later and went to join Albert Roux at Le Gavroche where he would meet future boss and mentor Gordon Ramsey – working with Ramsey as Sous Chef at his Aubergine restaurant. Like everyone he has had ups and downs. As I look back over his successful career, I ask Wareing what advice he would give his younger self, to which he replies, ‘I feel like I made all the right moves to get to where I am now so I would do it all again, more of the same.’
What strikes me most about Wareing is his passion for the chefs of the future. He lacks the smug pride often found in those at the top and instead strives to inspire the next generation of chefs. It seems watching his team develop and grow is a vitally important part of the Wareing kitchen. He tells me, ‘I am hugely passionate about inspiring and mentoring the next generation of talent in our kitchens and I take real pleasure in helping them grow. The better they grow and the better they get, the easier my job becomes.’
Is this why he has agreed to be on the judging panel on the seventh series of BBC’s MasterChef: The Professionals? ‘I’ve always said if there was one television programme that I would want to be part of it would be MasterChef.’ The series is a spin-off of the main show, where instead of amateur cooks, the panel hunt for working chefs who deserve recognition. I ask him if this rang any bells, ‘It’s a fantastic series and Professionals really does try and uncover the next generation of exceptional chefs.’ He adds, ‘It is also a very real reflection of how my industry works and it takes the food very seriously.’
I ask Wareing for the secret formula, the set of skills needed to make it in the high pressure cooker that is the culinary world. ‘You need to know business, how the other part of it works. I always tell my chefs to look at the bigger picture, it is not just about the food – eating is about an experience.’ When it comes to advice, his answer is just as clear cut, telling those hoping to follow in his footsteps to, ‘Make it a lifestyle not a sacrifice; don’t look at it like a sacrifice as it is not one.’ Wareing means business and I wonder if this is the way you have to be to get to the top of your game in a professional kitchen.
Finally I get to the question I’ve been waiting to ask since the MasterChef panel was announced earlier this year – what would he cook if he was a contestant on the show? Again Wareing has a clear and concise answer, telling me it would be something he had mastered before, choosing a suckling lamb dish. One thing is for certain – we will all be tuning in to watch this Great British Master in action this autumn.
Whether you fancy yourself as a contestant, or are a complete beginner a cookery course is the perfect place to discover your passion. On the other hand, training in catering is a great way to make the first steps towards a culinary career. As Marcus Wareing proves, it really could change your life.