The Devil in the Kitchen
“We had a great big dustbin in the kitchen, which was filled with the usual waste produced in professional kitchens. The boys who were too slow, or simply too annoying at any particular moment, were dumped inside it. “ Page 164, The Devil in the Kitchen.
Another chef book= another bad boy story. Like most celebrity chefs, Marco Pierre White had humble roots, traumatic childhood memories and an awful verbally sometimes physically abusive relationship in the kitchen. Marco Pierre White was actually bad and gives us all the evidence proving that he had absolutely no regrets with the way he ran his kitchen. He claims to have started the aggressive cussing in the kitchens these days and created Gordon Ramsay who left his restaurants a year later in tears.
Its almost an understatement to say that he was driven. He ruined his health, three marriages and tortured everyone who was working with him on the pursuit to become the youngest chef to win three Michelin stars. He was on top of the world and almost untouchable. He had women slipping in his office while their husbands were waiting for them below waiting them to com back from the bathroom. He threw out dinners off of the table of customers who complained about his food and not so calmly told them to fuck off. All of this for his obsession with excellence and not so much passion for food.
It doesn’t matter if they beat you,” he said. “As long as you hurt them more than they hurt you, they’ll never come back for more.” The second piece of advice was simpler: “Don’t argue, just hit ’em.” Page 32, The Devil in the Kitchen.
This quote seems given to Marco by his dad seems like the most essential formation of his attitude in the kitchen, “If you are not extreme, then people will take shortcuts because they don’t fear you.” (This was also a reason why he appreciated women cooks because according to him they took none shortcuts whatsoever but feared hiring them because of romantic relationships with other cooks.)
White’s ghost writer does an excellent job of putting this memoir up together. It does feel like an old man trying to remember his childhood and his early cooking days together, many memories seem like they’ve been thought through with time and there is a glass lens on top of them. The fact that its not written nostalgically makes me feel like he’s trying to suppress all the emotions with his mothers early death and the regret of not bonding with his father after that. One of my favourite parts is when he mixes in some tips on cooking.
Cook’s brain. It’s that ability to visualize the food on the plate, as a picture in the mind, and then work backward. There’s no reason why domestic cooks can’t do the same thing. Cooking is easy: you’ve just got to think about what you are doing and why you are doing it. Too many professional chefs never think about what they are doing. Page 135, The Devil in the Kitchen.
He says it took he didn’t understand why he was cooking even after three Michelin stars, he said he just did it. One of the reasons why I think I want to go culinary school is this exact reason. To know what Im doing and why I’m doing it. But somehow now that I’m reading more and getting some amazing advice I feel that professional cooks and amateur cooks fall in the same category when it comes to this. This is more personal than technical. I’ve always associated that I would perhaps get some scientific logical reasoning for these things, yes perhaps I would. But I’ve come to realise that that might only be through my own personal reading.
Imaging what the plate looks like or how I want my food comes a little easier to me now than before. Ever since I started working for the studio, I’ve started thinking exactly how I want my shot to look like, the plate of food, the colour, the consistency, the props, the small herbs on top. Probably not the way a plate is plated in a restaurant, but a ‘domestic’ vibe is always really appealing to me. I have a ranges of folders on my phone that have been shelved for different type of cuisines what they should look like. No wonder, why I get incredibly devastated in the kitchen when things don’t turn out perfect. I made a batch of perfect brioche+haikado bread burger buns today, they probably would have turned that perfect glowy brown but my electricity went off almost at the end and I’ve been a little pissed off. Just a tiny. Nothing massive. I’m not going to yell at people and throw my parents in the bin. I’m a nice person like that.
Why do I want to cook perhaps a Paris Brest? There is nostalgia, yes. There is a sense of something new, that always excites me. There is also the fact that this very advanced for someone like me. Making this pastry will be a step up to stuff I usually make in the kitchen.
Why do I cook? I cook to feed myself and get by through the day. Why am I so passionate about it? Sometimes I think it was the one of the few things I felt I stood out on and I have just desperately grabbed it trying to refine myself each day. Or maybe just to disprove people who said I probably wont be able to learn to live alone and cook for myself (but that could not have sustained itself for 2.5 years). Maybe its because, I’ve always like using my hands and creating things. Somewhere down teenage turbulences I might have forgotten what that felt like. Wow, this is hard.
I was not ready to write this blog with an introspective ending. Although White is not a likeable person, nor does he want to be liked reading this made me question a lot about myself as a amateur cook.