25 | Jan | 10

Richard Johnson

Marco Gets Street

I will always remember Marco Pierre White in the lobby of the Soho Grand, signing for breakfast. He put it on Room 320 – the only problem was that he was in Room 322. He was the worse for wear after a night on the sambuca – ‘the house cocktail’, as he called it. The aniseed spirit was lit, extinguished (with the palm of the hand) and shot – in one. Sure, it was against New York fire regulations, and everything that was good and decent. But it was very Marco Pierre White. And the burns from last night didn’t appear to be bothering him…

White was in Manhattan promoting The Devil In The Kitchen – the American edition of his autobiography. His publicists at Bloomsbury were selling him as the original rock-star chef. The one who made Gordon Ramsay cry – who would string up his kitchen juniors by their aprons before dumping them in the dustbin. He was off to do a live cooking demo on The Martha Stewart Show. If he could keep his breakfast down long enough.

Last night it went wrong. It went wrong when White suggested ‘the house cocktail’. The heat of the shot glass threw one member of the drinking party into a blind panic, and she smashed her hand down onto the table. There was flaming sambuca everywhere. White got burnt, and had to ram his hand into a bucket of ice water, and bandage it up in a table napkin, before somebody – nobody quite remembers who – rolled him into a cab.

But somehow he still managed to look handsome – despite a grey demeanour and a tangle of greasy hair. He hadn’t spent any time at the mirror, but it wouldn’t have hurt – The Martha Stewart Show is, after all, the American standard for gracious domestic living. White’s turbot with citrus and cilantro was due to sit alongside a leaf-covered candleholder how-to, and a tip on using old navigational charts as gift wrap. It was the start of one hell of an adventure……

Marco (alongside the equally brilliant and magnificent Mark Hix, Antony Worrall Thompson and Thomasina Miers) will be judging the British Street Food Awards. And by the look of this Marco Pierre White LIDO feature in the Sunday Times magazine, he’s quite excited about it……