Q&A: Advice for restaurateurs from Marco Pierre White
Marco Pierre White (aka "the godfather of rock-star chefs," "enfant terrible of the British restaurant scene," etc.) retired from the kitchen in 1999 but has recently embarked on a television career; last year, he was head chef on the third season of the British "Hell's Kitchen" series. It seems he's on a mission to solidify his status as "the first celebrity chef."
We caught up with him for a Q&A during his visit to L.A. this week. He's promoting his coming TV show, an American version of "The Chopping Block," produced for NBC by Granada America (which also brought us "Hell's Kitchen"), in which couples compete for a shot at having their own Manhattan restaurant. The show is expected to air sometime next year.
The chef notorious for applying the "10-second throttle" to his cooks (according to his 2007 memoir "The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness and the Making of a Great Chef") has opened 30 restaurants and now has his sights set on the U.S.
With stocks plunging and the economy in crisis here, what advice do you have for anyone trying to open a restaurant now?...
I think restaurateurs might be afraid to do that right now. If they don't, they will struggle. People don't come to your restaurant to save $10; they come to you for what you have to offer.
Would you invest in a restaurant now? Of course. I think when things are difficult, that’s when you should grow your company. Everything’s cheaper. When the market is up, everything’s more expensive.
What do you remember about the first restaurant you opened -- Harveys? I had no management skills. That's what I had to really bring up because I had no experience in it.
What led you out of retirement from the kitchen and onto television? To retain my status and position in the culinary world.
But it's already legendary. I would like to keep it that way.
What compelled you to do the American version of "The Chopping Block"? I've always been curious about America and I think Americans have a greater fascination with food than almost anyone.
Does your renowned temper factor into the new show? You actually come across as quite paternal on "Hell's Kitchen." Well, that's my nature. There's a fine line between being a bully and protector. Between somebody who can make you or break you.
Have you had the chance to check out any L.A. restaurants while you're in town? Yes, I have. My favorite is Osteria Mozza, which I've been to four times.
What projects are you working on? Are you currently opening any restaurants?
I'm working on rolling out a chain of sports bars, which are highly glamorous and girl- and family-friendly.
Are those your Frankie's restaurants? Yes, they come under the Frankie's umbrella. I just think that most sports bars cater too much to blokes.... I'm negotiating in two cities in America (which ones, I can't say). They might be called Frankie's, or Marco & Frankie's.
-- Betty Hallock
Photos of Marco Pierre White from "The Devil in the Kitchen" (Bob Carlos Clarke) and Granada Productions