Gastronomic great Marco Pierre White revealed at the conference that La Tante Claire was the benchmark that he used in his singled-minded focus to achieve three Michelin stars.
Scroll down to watch the interview from the 2008 Chef Conference
White told the delegates that he was restricted by the size of Harveys, his two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Wandsworth, from achieving further stars. The opportunity to go further was then provided by Sir Rocco Forte at the Hyde Park Hotel.
“I told Derek Brown of Michelin that if I produced food to the standards of La Tante Claire then he could not deny me three stars and he replied that that was a very intelligent approach,” White said.
“I went for La Tante Claire because it was the weakest of the three-star restaurants in those days. So I dissected everything they did – the amuse gueule, the fish, the meat and the desserts – and we achieved our three stars.”
White went on to say that he eventually lost his respect for Michelin when he realised that he actually knew more than the Michelin inspectors, which led to him famously handing back all three stars at the age of 38. Having devoted all his working life to reaching the top of his profession, he admits his growth as a person had been stunted.
“I might have been 38, but I was only 16 emotionally. So I took myself off to the country for five years and went shooting and fishing. I was kind to myself for the first time in many years.”
White also shared his belief that his emergence as a celebrity chef was the result of a collaboration between the photographer Bob Carlos Clarke and restaurant publicist Alan Crompton-Batt. “I was their prop and I was lucky,” he said.
Looking ahead, White said that the summer would see the screening of a new four-part series for ITV, Marco’s Great British Feast, the filming of which took him around the UK, shooting, fishing and foraging for the country’s finest ingredients. He is also due to start filming in New York soon on an American-made programme called The Chopping Block which will seen him working alongside 16 couples. A new series of Hell’s Kitchen will be screened in 2009 and he has been asked to do Hell’s Kitchen in Australia – a project he is “thinking about”.
Meanwhile, Frankie’s Italian Bar & Grill, the five-strong group White jointly owns with jockey Frankie Dettori, continues to expand. “Frankie’s ticks all the right boxes – it is all about affordable glamour,” White said. “I’m now in the business of selling fun for people who want to be with their family and friends. Nowadays I can think of nothing worse than being in a chapel of a Michelin-starred restaurant.”