Hosts play­ing with ire

View­ers should pre­pare for a smash­ing time in the Masterchef kitchen, writes Colin Vick­ery

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Cover Story -

MARCO Pierre White doesn’t think of MasterChef: The Pro­fes­sion­als as a cook­ing show. To him, it is ‘‘ gas­tro­nomic ther­apy’’.

The famed Bri­tish chef, restau­ra­teur and au­thor is fear­some in his re­solve to test the show’s 18 qual­i­fied chefs to their very lim­its.

As any­one who has seen Chan­nel 10’s on-air pro­mo­tions will tes­tify, that means White has to get down­right scary at times.

White takes no pris­on­ers. He shouts — and plates smash. You know there will be tears.

‘‘ Lots of kids come into the in­dus­try to­day be­cause they want to be a star,’’ White says. ‘‘ It’s not about be­ing a star. It’s about learn­ing your craft.

‘‘ They may not like my hon­esty to be­gin with, but that’s what it’s got to be. It’s got to be tough love.’’

Pro­fes­sion­als co-host Matt Pre­ston agrees with White’s tac­tics. For­get the nur­tur­ing, softly-softly ap­proach he, Ge­orge Calom­baris and Gary Me­hi­gan take with ama­teur cooks on MasterChef.

Pre­ston knows White has to dig deep into con­tes­tants’ psychology, as well as their cook­ing, if he is to bring out their best.

That is why Pro­fes­sion­als will spend much more time than the orig­i­nal MasterChef un­lock­ing the con­tes­tants’ per­sonal se­crets and sto­ries.

Chefs in­clude Matty Mc- Ken­zie, who, as a teenager, was caught in a cy­cle of heavy drug ad­dic­tion, al­co­hol, crime and abuse.

Chrissie Flana­gan is a re­cently sep­a­rated sin­gle mother who wants to get back into the work­force and set a good ex­am­ple for young daugh­ters Lucy and Ivy.

Bonny Porter has been chal­lenged all her life. She was deaf in one ear at age three. She lost the hear­ing in her other ear when she was seven.

An­thony Bantoft has led

It’s not about be­ing a star. It’s about learn­ing your craft

the glam­orous life, cook­ing for stars in­clud­ing Pene­lope Cruz, Sean Con­nery and An­dre Agassi — but some­thing is miss­ing.

‘‘ The peo­ple we have cast on this show are ones with un­ful­filled po­ten­tial,’’ Pre­ston says. ‘‘ They could be very young or (have) taken a wrong turn in their ca­reer or had per­sonal is­sues.’’

White is per­fectly placed to act as con­tes­tants’ men­torpsy­chol­o­gist-life coach. He knows that it was cook­ing that stopped his life spi­ralling out of con­trol.

White’s mother Maria-Rosa died when he was a child. Fa­ther Frank, a chef, had to raise White and his three brothers— Gra­ham, Clive and Craig. The old man was tough.

White be­gan his train­ing in the kitchen at the Ho­tel St Ge­orge in Har­ro­gate in his mid-teens.

‘‘ I was very shy and in­tro­verted when I started,’’ White says. ‘‘ I had very low self­es­teem. I was bro­ken as a child.

‘‘ The beauty of it was that I could ex­press my­self with my hands. I spoke (through cook­ing) with my fin­gers. I worked very hard, I was very dis­ci­plined, very punc­tual.

‘‘ When the head chef com­pli­mented me on my prawn cock­tail or chicken liver pate it started to build me up.’’

In 1987, White opened his first restau­rant, Har­vey’s, in Wandsworth Com­mon, Lon­don, and al­most im­me­di­ately re­ceived a cov­eted Miche­lin star. By age 33, White, with his The Restau­rant Marco Pierre White at the Hyde Park Ho­tel, be­came the first Bri­tish chef to be awarded three Miche­lin stars.

White quickly earned a rep­u­ta­tion as the bad boy of the UK restau­rant scene — a rebel with glam­orous rock star looks and a fiery tem­per. White was known to throw pa­trons out of his restau­rant.

Along the way, he trained chefs in­clud­ing Gor­don Ram­say and Aus­tralia’s Cur­tis Stone.

‘‘ When I opened Har­vey’s, I re­leased that pain from within,’’ White says. ‘‘ It came out on my plates, it came out in my con­duct.’’

White’s pri­vate life has been tu­mul­tuous. He has been mar­ried three times. His sec­ond mar­riage, to model Lisa Butcher, lasted a mere 15 weeks.

Last Oc­to­ber, White was back in the head­lines when his es­tranged third wife, Matilde Cone­jero, faced court.

The cou­ple have three chil­dren. Cone­jero was ac­cused of smash­ing up White’s Range Rover and us­ing her own blood and red nail var­nish to scrawl in­sults at his west Lon­don home.

White re­tired from the kitchen in 1999. His White Heat cook book has be­come a bi­ble for food lovers. He has a stake in a num­ber of restau­rants and is es­ti­mated to be worth about $40 mil­lion.

White is a force on TV as well, host­ing the Bri­tish ver­sion of Hell’s Kitchen and the Amer­i­can ver­sion of The Chop­ping Block.

‘‘ It (the restau­rant in­dus­try) is like the French For­eign Le­gion,’’ White says.

‘‘ As long as you’re pre­pared to roll up your sleeves, be re­spect­ful, and graft (work), there’s a fu­ture for you.

‘‘ So many young men and women, who have had very lit­tle in their lives, step through the doors of a kitchen and that’s a pass­port to se­cu­rity. When you teach them to cook, you’re giv­ing them a life skill.

‘‘ This ( MasterChef: The Pro­fes­sion­als) is go­ing to be one of the most ex­cit­ing jour­neys of their (con­tes­tants’) lives.

‘‘ It won’t be un­til they leave the show that they’ll re­alise how much they have learned.’’

iPAD

MasterChef: The Pro­fes­sion­als, Chan­nel 10, Sun­day, 7.30pm MEET THE CON­TES­TANTS Refugees, the hear­ing im­paired, chefs to the rich and fa­mous and or­di­nary mums and dads are among the mix of MasterChef Pro­fes­sional con­tes­tants. Find out what the judges think of them. Tough love: Marco Pierre White and Matt Pre­ston will push the 18 qual­i­fied chefs to their very lim­its.

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