September 2, 2011 10:45 pm

FT Foodies: Marcus Wareing

The chef and restaurateur talks about food memories, a dish he made for the Queen and how he feels about his cooking

Chef and restaurateur Marcus Wareing earned his first Michelin star at 25, as head chef at L’Oranger, London. He went on to cook at The Savoy Grill and Pétrus. Wareing now runs two restaurants of his own: Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley and The Gilbert Scott at St Pancras Hotel.

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What is your earliest memory of food?

Sunday evening was the only time my whole family sat around the table together. My mother used to cook a roast dinner. My father was a fruit and veg merchant, so there was always a lot of vegetables: cauliflower, sprouts, broccoli … As a kid, those were things I didn’t like. That’s why I remember those dinners. And, looking back, the meat was always overcooked. My father didn’t like to see blood in it.

What was your first job in the food industry?

I worked part-time for my dad’s business in Southport, Lancashire: packing potatoes mostly. On the weekends, I used to go around on a wagon, delivering produce to shops and hotels. It was really great fun: wagons, men, trucks, dirty conversation.

Do you care about buying local?

Absolutely. That said, there’s no such thing as local when you’re in the middle of Knightsbridge, where my restaurant is. I get tired of chefs saying things are local when they’re not – or telling you off when you buy from France or Italy. The south of France is only two hours away. But when I buy French foie gras people get cross because I’m “buying from abroad”.

Are there any foods you don’t like?

I could say I don’t like tripe, but really I’ve never eaten it. I’ve seen it at the butcher’s and I don’t like the look of it. I would also never choose to eat heart.

What is the best thing you have eaten?

Last year I went on a press trip to Milan. Inside one hotel was a Japanese chocolate maker who made a white truffle chocolate. When I say truffle, I mean alba truffle: the fungus that you might put on pasta. This man had incorporated it into chocolate. It was such a delicacy.

In 2006, you cooked for the Queen at her 80th birthday banquet. What did you make her?

It was an egg custard tart. It’s a north-west England dish: something my grandmother used to cook. The challenge is in getting the right balance between egg, cream, sugar and milk. It took weeks to get it right. She did eat it – I know because I asked to see her plate. Well, she left a bit of pastry behind.

Is there anything you have left to improve in your cooking?

I’m never happy with my food. I’m never ever happy with my restaurant. In fact, I’m never happy in general.

What would you think if your children became chefs?

I’d be delighted if all my kids were in the industry. Without a doubt. Brilliant.

For Marcus Wareing’s recipes for Country Life’s Buy British campaign, go to www.enjoycountrylife.co.uk

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