No-one can breathe the cold chill of fear into a room full of celebrities quite like Marco Pierre White – the man who once famously made Gordon Ramsay cry.
But don’t be fooled – there’s a surprisingly gentle, introspective side to the infamous British chef that he keeps quietly tucked away from the public eye.
Lounging in a Sydney hotel bar, Marco, 55, opens up about his fiercely private life in a revealing interview with New Idea.
‘When I go back home to England, you never see me in public,’ he says, sipping slowly on his latte.
‘I never use my children in publicity and I’ll never talk about my children in detail.’
The Michelin-starred chef’s son, Marco Jnr, as the subject of controversy earlier this year when MasterChef judge Matt Preston publicly slammed his behaviour.
At the time, Marco jumped to the defence of his 22-year-old son, but he’s more diplomatic when discussing the conflict now.
‘It’s as simple as this,’ he says. ‘[If] you asked me about someone’s child today, whether I’d met them or whether I’d not met them, I would turn around and say: “Look, I’m not here to talk about them.”
‘That’s all I would say as a man. Because I don’t have that right to talk about somebody else’s children, and if I do speak about them, then I’ll speak about them in the kindest and softest, most correct way.’
Marco remains a man of his word, protecting his children Luciano, 23, Marco and Mirabelle, 15, from scrutiny by steering the conversation towards his feelings on privacy.
‘The one thing I really have learnt in my life is that privacy is freedom,’ he muses.
With a deep love of hunting and fishing, Marco now lives a very private existence in the English countryside near Bath, far from the famous London restaurants he once ran.
In fact, he reveals retiring to the British countryside is what saved him.
After decades slaving away in the kitchen from the age of 16, Marco fell off the face of the culinary planet at just 38… and it was all in an effort to find some balance in his life.
‘When I retired from cooking I was quite lost ,’ he admits.
‘In a sense that I’d been institutionalised, it was like being in the forces and all of a sudden now I’ve got to go back, I’ve got to face the world.’
So Marco left the kitchen and went to the only other place that felt like home – nature, where he’d often sound solace as a young boy.
After Marco’s mother Maria tragically died of a brain haemorrhage when he was just six, he was left to roam the countryside near Leeds.
‘[When I retired as a chef] I did exactly what I’d done as a child,’ he remembers. ‘I went back to the woods, the field, the streams, the rivers. For five years I didn’t work, and that’s where I started to grow emotionally and started to discover myself as a person.
‘It’s very hard for me to be myself and the only place I can really be myself outside of the kitchen is in nature,’ he explains.
For the full story, see this week’s New Idea – Out now.
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