Hosts playing with ire
Viewers should prepare for a smashing time in the Masterchef kitchen, writes Colin Vickery
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.’’
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.