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Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Marco Pierre White, Wheeler's of St James's, Frankies

01 July 2011
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Marco Pierre White, Wheeler's of St James's, Frankies

Overall ranking: 78 (ranked 84 in2010)

Chef ranking: 25 (ranked 24 in 2010)

Marco Pierre White - Snapshot

Marco Pierre White was the first Briton and remains the youngest chef in the UK to win three Michelin stars.

He was the AA Chef of the Decade in 2002, while a 2003 Caterer survey of Michelin-starred chefs rated White the second-greatest living UK chef - after the Roux brothers - and his White Heat book the most influential cookbook.

After ‘handing back' his stars in 1999, White is now a successful restaurateur with 18 UK properties and a further three abroad.

Marco Pierre White - Career guide

After gaining early experience in a Harrogate hotel and the Box Tree in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, the Leeds-born Marco Pierre White claims to have arrived in London aged 16 with just "£7.36, some books and a bag of clothes". The following years saw him train under some of the top chefs of the time, including Albert Roux, Pierre Koffmann, Nico Ladenis and Raymond Blanc.

White made his name after launching Harvey's in Wandsworth, London, in 1987, aged just 24, the site winning two Michelin stars by 1990. He gained a third Michelin star in 1995, after closing Harvey's (which became Chez Bruce) and establishing Restaurant Marco Pierre White in the Forte-owned Hyde Park Hotel (now the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park).

When the Hyde Park was sold, he moved his restaurant to the Le Meridien Piccadilly hotel in 1997, renaming it the Oak Room and continuing to cook until December 1999, when he claimed to have "returned" his three Michelin stars and hung up his whites to focus on his growing restaurant empire.

The immediate year following his retirement from the kitchen saw him team up with Jimmy Lahoud, setting up White Star Line in 1999 and launching restaurants such as L'Escargot and Belvedere. Since parting ways with those restaurants, White has focussed more on launching easily transferable restaurant brands, such as upmarket pizzeria Frankie's, which he launched with jockey Frankie Dettori, Marco Pierre White Steakhouses and fish restaurant Wheeler's.

White's current restaurants include the fine-dining Marco at Chelsea FC; the nearby King's Road Steakhouse and the Marco Pierre White Steak and Alehouse in the City of London; two UK branches of upmarket pizzeria Frankie's, plus further franchise branches in Dublin and Dubai; and fish restaurant Wheeler's of St James, which he relaunched in 2009.

In June 2010 White announced his intentions to roll out his Wheeler's brand into the home counties, and after opening the Kings Arms in Fernhurst, Sussex, last year, added a further six sites in March 2011, spread across Norfolk, Suffolk and Wiltshire, all featuring dishes from Wheeler's menu.

White has also successfully expanded his steakhouse concept in recent years, launching sites in Chester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol and Dublin, while plans are afoot to launch a Frankie's in Exeter later this year. He also teamed up with football club Manchester City in August 2010 to help design the menu at City Square, the club's pre-match entertainment space.

Marco Pierre White - What we think

Caterer - interview - and, to the astonishment of some foodies, Bernard Matthews also.

But lucrative advertising decisions should not overshadow White's achievements, and he remains one of the most iconic British chefs of all time. He was the first Briton and the youngest chef in the UK to win three Michelin stars, redrawing the boundaries of fine dining in the UK during the 1980s and breaking the dominance of French master chefs to inspire a new wave of home-grown talent, from Gary Rhodes to John Campbell. The roster of chefs who have worked for White have included Gordon Ramsay, Richard Neat, Phil Howard, Stephen Terry and Eric Chavot. His book White Heat, - meanwhile, remains an essential read for any serious food fan.

While many big names passed through his kitchen, his reputation also inspired chefs of a certain generation, such as Tom Kerridge and Andrew Pern: "In his former days he had three Michelin stars, and the cooking he did then and the cooking we ate then was amazing," Pern told the BBC in 2008. "We used to save up all our tips and wages and travel to London to eat there. We learnt that way. The food Marco did then was absolutely amazing - it still is."

These days White is more businessman than chef. And although his canny creation of brands such as Frankie's and MPW Steakhouses has allowed him to roll out restaurants across the UK, his swiftness to team up with the likes of Knorr and Bernard Matthews has somewhat tarnished the image of a once-revered chef.

However, he remains a significant presence in the industry, whose influence will continue to reverberate long after he retires. He has also become a recognisable figure amongst a whole new generation of foodies after following in the footsteps of his one-time protégé Gordon Ramsay and moving into television, appearing on shows such as Hell's Kitchen and Marco's Kitchen Burnout in recent years.

Marco Pierre White's ranking in the 2010 Caterersearch.com 100 >>

Marcos Pierre White buys six Maypole Group pubs >>

Marco sees a bright future for Wheeler's outside London >>

Peter Mills and Gary Scott join Marco Pierre Whites new Liverpool restaurant >>

Marco Pierre White to open Frankies Bar and Grill in Exeter >>

Marco Pierre White is Manchester City's latest signing >>

Exclusive video interview with Marco Pierre White at the 2008 Chef Conference >>

Marco Pierre White website >>

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