Marco Pierre White, once dubbed the ‘orig­i­nal gas­tro God­fa­ther’, has cooked for Madonna and Johnny Depp, feuded with Gor­don Ram­say and. was the youngest-ever chef to win three Miche­lin stars, be­fore he handed them back and walked away. Over a bot­tle of wi

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - TOP FIVE / THE LOVES OF MY LIFE -

When Marco Pierre White started talk­ing four hours ago, it was bright out. Now, as it gets dark in the court­yard out­side his restau­rant in Don­ny­brook, the chef ’s words are lit­er­ally com­ing out of the shad­ows. Marco is be­gin­ning to re­sem­ble Ham­let, when the Prince asks: “What is this quin­tes­sence of dust?”

“I never met a man who worked harder than me,” the gobby gas­tro­nomic god­head, and soon-to-be res­i­dent critic on TV3’s The Restau­rant, be­gins. “It’s a lit­tle like Ali. I’m not com­par­ing my­self to him, but there will never be an­other Muham­mad Ali. There will never be an­other Cas­sius Clay. Be­cause the world will never al­low it.

“And there will never be an­other Marco Pierre White, be­cause the world will never al­low it,” he adds.

Asked why the world won’t al­low an­other, Marco smiles — his eyes vivid with the pas­sion­ate in­ten­sity that char­ac­terises him and his life.

“Be­cause you can’t push to that ex­treme any more. Box­ing is 13 rounds, not 15. If it all gets a bit bloody, they stop the fight. I gave back the Miche­lin stars be­cause the world had changed. When I was a boy and you went for an in­ter­view, you never asked how many hours,” Marco says, mean­ing the fate­ful day, when, as a 15-year-old, he knocked on the back door of the Ho­tel St Ge­orge in Har­ro­gate, and got a job.

“You never asked how much money. You never rang in sick. You were never late. You al­ways said, ‘Yes, chef ’. The world changed. And I no longer be­lieved in that world. I lost my be­lief.”

At 33 years of age, Marco was the youngest-ever chef to win three Miche­lin stars. He handed them back to Miche­lin five years later. He had had enough. The driven, volatile ge­nius — dubbed Bri­tain’s orig­i­nal gas­tro God­fa­ther — grew up on a coun­cil es­tate in Leeds. He says that his fa­ther Frank “thought Miche­lin made tyres”. I ask him if he’s jok­ing. He says it very much isn’t a joke.

I ask Marco if be­ing from the north of Eng­land pro­tected him from some of the bull­shit of Lon­don, where he made his name. He an­swers that Dublin re­minds him of Leeds. “It re­minds me of my home,” he says. “The peo­ple are very down-to-earth. They’re very hon­est. They’re very giv­ing, very giv­ing . . . very for­giv­ing. Good peo­ple are al­ways for­giv­ing. They close an eye to one’s fail­ings.” What are your fail­ings? “I’ve got a moun­tain of them.” Give me five. He gives the flip­pant re­quest some se­ri­ous fore­thought, be­fore giv­ing the re­quested five per­sonal fail­ings as he per­ceives them. “One: I’m too soft. “Two: I’m too trust­ing. “Three: I’m too giv­ing. “Four: I’m too ac­cept­ing. “Five: I’m too lov­ing. Really? “Of life,” he ex­plains. “And,” Marco con­tin­ues, “when you have those qual­i­ties, they be­come fail­ings, be­cause peo­ple take ad­van­tage of them. But you know some­thing? You still have to stand by them, be­cause you be­lieve in life. You have to give peo­ple the ben­e­fit of the doubt.”

Do you feel you haven’t been given the ben­e­fit of the doubt, and, in fact, have been judged? “That is not im­por­tant. I have been judged by many peo­ple. Many, many peo­ple. You have spent many days with me over the years. You read what The Ob­server wrote about me,” he says re­fer­ring to what he terms a “hatchet job” in that news­pa­per in Jan­uary of this year.

“Am I that man? Am I? How nasty she was,” he says of Rachel Cooke, the jour­nal­ist who wrote the Marco-of­fend­ing ar­ti­cle, in which she said, “His man­ner is so hi­lar­i­ously dis­dain­ful, I can’t help feel­ing that it’s not a Miche­lin star he’s miss­ing, but an Os­car”.

“I’ve been called con­tro­ver­sial in my life,” he con­tin­ues, on a roll. “Why? Be­cause I fought for what I be­lieve in. Be­cause I stood up for what I be­lieve in,” he smiles, adding with a typ­i­cally, mas­sively over-thetop, even po­etic, Marco flour­ish: “That’s who Marco Pierre White is. That’s the kind of man I am.”

He con­tin­ues, “You know, I have never had a low point in my life. I’ve had lots of painful points. Lots of sad points. But not low points, be­cause life is a won­der­ful, won­der­ful thing. That’s how you have to look at life.”

He has been mar­ried three times. The wives, in or­der of ap­pear­ance in his life, are Alex McArthur, Lisa Butcher, and Matilde Cone­jero, the mother of his three chil­dren — Lu­ciano, Marco Ju­nior and daugh­ter Mirabelle.

Do you look at the break-ups of your three mar­riages in a philo­soph­i­cal way?

“The re­al­ity is, if I re­flect and I look back on my life, it’s . . .” he says, and pauses. “When we’re young, a lot of our de­ci­sions are born out of in­se­cu­rity.” He takes a sip of wine.

“That’s why we make so many mis­takes, be­cause we don’t have suf­fi­cient knowl­edge to make a de­ci­sion.”

This is the same philoso­pher who once jested that he per­haps knew on his wed­ding day, at Brompton Or­a­tory, on Au­gust 14, 1992, that mar­riage to his sec­ond wife, then 21-year-old model Lisa Butcher, was a mis­take, be­cause she looked as if she had dressed to go down the cat­walk rather than the aisle.

“I treated the Catholic Church like a su­per­mar­ket,” he jokes now.

“When we are young, we have all the cor­rect in­ten­tions in the world, but we are ruled by our emo­tions. As we get older, we start to understand life and start to ac­cept life. That’s when we can make de­ci­sions. Our emo­tional growth is lim­ited when we are younger. Our un­der­stand­ing of one’s self is min­i­mal.

“So how can we make a de­ci­sion? We can’t! And that’s why we end up in failed re­la­tion­ships. That’s why we end up in bro­ken mar­riages. That’s why we end up the way we are. The sys­tem forces us to make de­ci­sions too young.”

Marco is 53 now and a lot wiser, pre­sum­ably. Would he get mar­ried again?

“Of course! Of course! But, you know, I don’t be­lieve it is nec­es­sary to get mar­ried. I think to prove your love for a per­son doesn’t mean you have to walk down an aisle. It means you have to go home on time. It means you have to do what’s right. And, you know — we boys are eas­ily led astray. An­other bot­tle of wine! An­other pint of Guin­ness! We al­ways turn up late.

“We have to be strong and say no,” he con­tin­ues. “I have been very guilty in turn­ing up late; where I’ve sat at the ta­ble with the boys too long; lunch has been too long; din­ner has been too long.”

Would you apol­o­gise when you get home?

“How can an apol­ogy be ac­cepted when you are in­tox­i­cated? And an apol­ogy the next day, when you are sober, is too late. Be strong. Be brave. And go home,” advises Marco, who lives in Sal­is­bury in Wilt­shire, “by the cathe­dral”. (He has two bas­set hounds — one is called Mou­ton, the other, Roth­schild — to pro­tect, he says, his hens.)

“That’s what I’d say,” he con­tin­ues. “It is too easy to get lost with the boys.”

Is that what you’ve learned along the way?

“Of course. Be­ing a restau­ra­teur, midafter­noon — ‘an­other bot­tle’. Down the pub — ‘an­other pint. An­other plate of cheese. Let’s have the menus for din­ner’. Boys are

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