Marco Pierre White (born 11 December 1961) is a British chef, restaurateur, and television personality from Leeds. White has been dubbed the first celebrity chef, and the enfant terrible of the UK restaurant scene. He was called the godfather of modern cooking by Australian MasterChef (Season 4, Episode 53). White was the youngest chef ever to have been awarded three Michelin stars. He has trained notable chefs such as Mario Batali, Gordon Ramsay, Curtis Stone and Shannon Bennett.
White was the third of four boys born to English chef Frank White and Maria-Rosa Gallina, an Italian emigrant from Veneto. White left Allerton High School in Leeds without any qualifications and decided to train as a chef, initially at Hotel St. George in Harrogate and then at the Box Tree in Ilkley. Aged 16, he went to London with "£7.36, a box of books and a bag of clothes", and began his classical training as a commis with Albert and Michel Roux at Le Gavroche.
He continued his training under Pierre Koffman at La Tante Claire, moving to work in the kitchen of Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir, and later with Nico Ladenis of Chez Nico at Ninety Park Lane. He then branched out on his own, working in the kitchen at the Six Bells public house in the Kings Road with assistant Mario Batali.
In 1987, White opened Harvey's in Wandsworth Common, London, where he won his first Michelin star almost immediately and was awarded his second in 1988. He later became chef-patron of The Restaurant Marco Pierre White in the dining room at the former Hyde Park Hotel, where he won the third Michelin star, and then moved to the Oak Room at the Le Méridien Piccadilly Hotel.
Although White worked for 17 years to pursue his ambition, he ultimately found that, in spite of his accomplishments, recognition and fame, his career did not provide him with adequate returns in his personal life. So, in 1999 he retired and returned his Michelin stars.
"I was being judged by people who had less knowledge than me, so what was it truly worth? I gave Michelin inspectors too much respect, and I belittled myself. I had three options: I could be a prisoner of my world and continue to work six days a week, I could live a lie and charge high prices and not be behind the stove or I could give my stars back, spend time with my children and re-invent myself."
During his early career in the kitchen, White regularly ejected patrons from his restaurants if he took offence at their comments.
When a customer asked if he could have a side order of chips with his lunch, White hand-cut and personally cooked the chips, but charged the customer £25 for his time. A young chef at Harveys, who once complained of heat in the kitchen, had the back of his chef's jacket and trousers cut open by White wielding a sharp paring knife.
White once made Gordon Ramsay cry when Ramsey worked for him in Harveys early in Ramsey's career. "I don't recall what he'd done wrong but I yelled at him and he lost it. Gordon crouched down in the corner of the kitchen, buried his head in his hands and started sobbing. 'I don't care what you do to me,' he said as he wept. 'Hit me. I don't care. Sack me. I don't care.'"
White is seen in UK adverts for Knorr stock cubes and stock pots, a Unilever brand. In answer to criticisms that he'd "sold himself out as a chef" by acting as a brand ambassador for such products he said, "by working with companies like Knorr it allows me to stand onto a bigger stage and enrich people's lives... Michelin stars, they're my past."
White announced his retirement from the kitchen in 1999 and cooked his final meal for a paying customer on 23 December at the Oak Room. He also returned all his Michelin Stars. After his retirement, he became a restaurateur. Together with Jimmy Lahoud, he set up White Star Line Ltd, which they operated together for several years before ending their partnership in 2007.
In 2008, White opened the MPW Steak & Alehouse with James Robertson in the Square Mile in London. As co-owners, since 2010 they have also operated the Kings Road Steakhouse & Grill in Chelsea. James Robertson had worked for White as a maître d'hôtel, between 1999 and 2003. Since May 2016 the two restaurants have become the London Steakhouse Co, a successful partnership and are, as of May 2016, the only restaurants worldwide in which White is a major shareholder. "Marco Pierre White - Steakhouse Bar & Grill" and "Marco's New York Italian by Marco Pierre White" are franchised brands operated by third parties which have outlets in various hotels throughout the UK.
White had a stake in the Yew Tree Inn, a 17th-century dining pub near Highclere in Hampshire, although following an acrimonious falling out with his business partners the pub was sold. This was the setting for much of "Marco's Great British Feast," screened on ITV in the summer of 2008. In January 2009, it was reported that White was to charge £5 for a pint of real ale at the venue, making the Yew Tree "one of the most expensive places to drink British real ale in the country". White was quoted saying "Most pubs undercharge. You're not just paying for beer, you're paying for the place you drink it in and the people who serve it."
White has published several books, including an influential cookbook White Heat, an autobiography called White Slave (entitled The Devil in the Kitchen in North America and in the paperback version), and Wild Food from Land and Sea.
At one point during the series, controversy ensued when White said, "I don't think it was a pikey's picnic tonight." The remark prompted criticism from the Commission for Racial Equality. However, the show was defended by an ITV spokesman, who indicated that warnings about its content were given before transmission, and that White's comment had been challenged by one of the contestants, Lee Ryan. The book accompanying the show, Marco Pierre White in Hell's Kitchen, was published on 23 August 2007 by Ebury Press.
White will present the inaugural season of Hell's Kitchen Australia for the Seven Network in 2017. Following matter-of-fact comments made by Masterchef judge Matt Preston about White's son's admitted $500,000 splurge of his father's money on drugs and prostitution, White joined this rival programme in retaliation.
'The Chopping Block On 18 March 2008, it was announced that White would be the host of an American version of the Australian cooking competition series The Chopping Block. The series, produced by Granada America, the production company behind the American version of Hell's Kitchen, aired on NBC in March 2009 but was pulled after three episodes due to low ratings. After a three-month hiatus, Chopping Block returned to complete its season.
Masterchef Australia On 7 July 2011, White was a guest judge on Masterchef Australia mentoring the cooks in an elimination round.
On 15 June 2014, White began a week-long appearance on Masterchef Australia presiding over a mystery box challenge, an invention test and a pressure test.
On 17 May 2015, White began his second week-long appearance on Masterchef Australia, in Week 3 of Series 7. On 12 July 2015, he returned for a second week on Masterchef Australia Series 7, entitled "Marco Returns Week".
On 8 May 2016, White began his third year running, and fourth week-long appearance on Masterchef Australia, this time Week 2 of Series 8.
Celebrity Big Brother 2011 On 27 August 2011, White was a houseguest on the UK version of Celebrity Big Brother to set a cooking task.
Marco Pierre White's Kitchen Wars In 2012, White fronted a new show for Channel 5 called Marco Pierre White's Kitchen Wars. It saw the UK's best restaurant partnerships balance food with front of house service, fighting for a place in a specially designed studio restaurant, where the top couples are each given their own kitchen and set of diners to impress. It received mostly positive reviews from critics.
Masterchef Australia: The Professionals 2013 White is a principal judge in this competition between professional chefs, which started 20 January 2013. White co-hosts the show with regular Masterchef Australia host Matt Preston.
MasterChef South Africa On 11 December 2014, White appeared on the South African version of Masterchef which aired on M-Net. He had a cook-along in the final challenge in the finals between Siphokazi and Roxi.
MasterChef New Zealand On 6 September 2015, White appeared on the New Zealand version of MasterChef which aired on TV3 (New Zealand). He was the Head Chef/Mentor of a team challenge consisting of the final 8.
Following matter-of-fact comments made by MasterChef Australia judge Matt Preston about White's son's admitted $500,000 splurge of his father's money on drugs and prostitution, White joined the rival programme Hell's Kitchen Australia in retaliation. In 2016, whilst on The Kyle and Jackie O Show, Preston was asked about Marco Jr.’s time on Big Brother UK, which included his alleged on-air sex and the above admittance to purchasing illicit drugs and sex workers. Preston said "I think it is that terrible thing when you have kids that go off the rails... the drugs might be a little bit of a worry". Since quitting MasterChef Australia, Marco Sr has said that “I will never forgive that man [Preston]…with my hand on my mother’s grave I will get that man”.
In September 2017, White opened a new restaurant in Plymouth, Devon. At the opening, he was critical of the quality of English wine, describing it as "nonsense" and caused controversy by saying, '"London is the No 1 food destination, full stop. It has the talent and (the people who can pay) the prices ... How many three-Michelin-star restaurants does Cornwall have? None. "
He went on, however, to praise the efforts of a rival hotel in the city, the Duke of Cornwall, describing it as “a lovely place”. He also added that while he had not eaten food produced by Nathan Outlaw, a Cornish Michelin star chef, he had read his books and seen his recipes and believed he "he cooks very well".
White has been married three times. His first wife was Alex McArthur, who was the daughter of a surgeon from Buckinghamshire, and who worked at his local fishmonger. They were married at Chelsea Register Office on 8 June 1988. He has a daughter Letitia, from the 2 year marriage, which ended in 1990.
White then met 21-year-old model Lisa Butcher at a London nightclub. They were engaged within three weeks. Engaged for two months, Butcher sold the coverage of the wedding in a £20,000 deal with Hello! magazine. The wedding took place at the Brompton Oratory on 15 August 1992.
In 1992, White began a relationship with Matilde Conejero, the bartender at The Canteen and went on to have two sons and a daughter. The couple married at the Belvedere on 7 April 2000. After White became friends with city financier Robin Saunders, Conejero suspected an affair between the two. White and his wife had a fight, after which White spent 14 hours in the cells of Notting Hill police station in January 2005. White and Conejero began divorce proceedings in 2007. In 2011 the divorce proceedings were withdrawn but in October 2012 White and Conejero separated again.
During Hell's Kitchen Australia, White revealed that he does not drive.