They say things come in threes and Marcus Wareing seems on a one-man mission to prove that correct. So far in 2014 he has opened a brand new restaurant, revamped an existing restaurant and tonight will make his MasterChef: The Professionals bow in place of Michel Roux Jr. After over twenty-five years under the hot lights of the kitchen – the punishing hours, public fallouts, dizzying acclaim - the temptation for most would be to slow down. But Marcus Wareing has his foot firmly down on the accelerator.
When it comes to opening and reopening restaurants he has seen it all before, of course – having been at the front line of Gordon Ramsay Holdings’ fearless charge for empire status in the late nineties/early noughties and now as a seasoned restaurateur in his own right. Yet, the MasterChef role is an entirely different proposition; a primetime BBC show with a loyal following – none of which is lost on Wareing.
“It’s a massive turning point in my career,” he admits to Great British Chefs. So what made the famously television-wary chef agree to take the role?
He explains: “I have always enjoyed watching the show and was hugely honoured when Karen Ross, the creative director, called to ask me. I’m incredibly excited to join the judging team on the series. For me it’s not only about making a TV programme, it’s also very much about inspiring the next generation of chefs, being part of something special. As it’s the professionals' series, it’s about the people that I work with every day, and that really appeals to me.”
In those terms it seems a natural fit, yet the knives are out. Replacing Michel Roux Jr is a tough job for anyone, and when you have the fierce reputation that Wareing does – even tougher.
But reputations are there to be dismantled, and the chef promises audiences will see a lighter side to his character when the show airs.
“I hope to bring my own personality to the series. This is a serious cooking competition and we expect the best from the chefs. It can be frustrating if the trained professionals don’t know the basics, but we always judge fairly and give constructive criticism. I think you see the real me, and you see a side that’s much more informative, as I’ve got more time to express myself and discuss the food in detail.”
Born into a working class family in the North West town of Southport, Marcus Wareing’s upbringing forms the bedrock of his ethos and culinary style to this day. He learnt discipline and determination from his days as an amateur boxer, while his father - a fruit and potato merchant - instilled the value of hard work and the virtues of using humble ingredients wisely. At the age of fourteen he knew he wanted to cook for a living.
By nineteen, Wareing had moved to London and was working at Le Gavroche (which, for a nice touch of symmetry, was being run by Michel Roux Jr) – where he was joined in the kitchen by a young Gordon Ramsay. After sojourns to New York, Amsterdam and West Sussex’s Gravetye Manor (where he met his wife, Jane), a chance encounter with Ramsay – who was on the verge of opening his first restaurant, The Aubergine - led to Wareing becoming his trusted Sous Chef.