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The Back Seat Interview

Chef Marcus Wareing tells us his recipe for success at the new Jaguar boutique showroom in the Berkeley Hotel, London.

  • Marcus Wareing is one of the UK’s most celebrated chefs. Born in Lancashire, he started work in the kitchen of London’s Savoy Hotel at the age of 18, and went on to learn his craft under the tutelage of Albert Roux and Gordon Ramsay. It was with the support of Ramsay that Wareing opened the Pétrus in 1999, which established a reputation as one of the world’s finest restaurants. Pétrus received the AA’s highest accolade of five rosettes in 2003 and was also awarded two Michelin stars. In 2004, Wareing was named Restaurateur of the Year at The Tatler Restaurant Awards.

    Last year, following a split with Ramsay, Wareing took over the Pétrus, renaming it ‘Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley’. The name is a reference to the restaurant’s location in London’s ultra-exclusive Berkeley Hotel, a venue it shares with Jaguar’s new boutique showroom. We find Wareing – an XKR owner – taking a peek at the all new Jaguar XJ.

  • HOW DID A LAD FROM LANCASHIRE END UP IN THE KITCHEN OF LONDON’S SAVOY HOTEL AT THE AGE OF 18?

    “My father and brother both worked with food and they were my role models. My brother was a chef and was seven years my senior. They taught me their skills and I followed in their footsteps. I took part in a college competition, one of the judges took a shine to me and that led to a job at the Savoy. I was very lucky, but it was a huge culture shock and actually quite scary.  I found it tough at first but I felt it was what I needed – it was either make or break.”

  • WAS THAT WHERE YOU DISCOVERED YOUR CREATIVITY?

    “To be honest, I never really created anything back then. It was all about learning the skills – learning all the time. Food has become so complicated that it can’t be copied by the man next door like it used to be. Chefs have made it too difficult. You have to go through this massive training regime. At a young age you think you’re creative but you’re not. I found myself doing what everyone else was doing and I didn’t get creative for a number of years. Even when I became a head chef at twenty-five I struggled to put a dish together. I’m sure it’s the same if you’re a car designer; creativity takes time and experience. You need to find yourself.”

  • IS THERE A PRESSURE TO KEEP RE-INVENTING FOOD?

    “It’s got to the point where chefs don’t know when to say ‘stop’. The dish is finished and they keep adding more and more. I’m learning to create this brilliant new level of experience that challenges your talent and how you think of food. It could be just three or four things on a plate that just work together beautifully and are cooked in such a way that the textures and flavours are something you’ve never experienced before. This talent is not something you can describe easily. It’s like asking the designer of a car what the thoughts were behind it – sometimes he won’t be able to tell you. It takes time to draw on your talent and reach the final product. That’s what I call the food sensation and it’s the same with cars. The car I have now [the XKR] is just pure, effortless elegance and power.”

  • IS ACHIEVING THREE MICHELIN STARS THE DREAM OF EVERY CHEF?

    “It’s a dream, but there are not a lot of chefs who can achieve it. You can only achieve it if you’ve got two stars and there are only about 10 such restaurants in the country. Every ambitious chef would love to do it, but the question is, are they committed to making the sacrifices that they have to make to achieve it? It’s my goal but I’m not going to let it become an obsession.”

  • HAS RUNNING THE RESTAURANT MADE IT DIFFICULT FOR YOU TO SPEND ENOUGH TIME IN THE KITCHEN?

    “My day is cookery. I wear a white jacket and a blue apron. That’s what I’m best at. I’ve employed the right people to run the business and although I’m close to it, it’s allowed me to concentrate on cooking. I keep my feet on the ground and my customers appreciate that. I won’t do what other chefs have done and try to be everywhere. Even if in the future I open a new restaurant, I’ll still only cook in one house.”

  • WHAT DOES A TYPICAL MARCUS WAREING DAY LOOK LIKE?

    “I get out of bed at 6.30am and have breakfast with the kids before I leave at about 7.15am. By 7.45am I’m in the kitchen with my apron on doing some preparation. I’ll do the lunchtime service from 12.30pm for three hours, then I’ll spend some time catching up with the team. Then at 6pm the whole thing starts again for another six or seven hours. I get home at about 12.30 or 1am. I only get about four hours sleep each night, but that’s all I’ve ever known. We have 11 services each week and I attend 10 of them. That’s what cookery is.”

  • We’re enjoying a coffee in Jaguar’s new boutique showroom, which is less than a minute’s walk from Wareing’s kitchen. Our talk inevitably turns to the XJ, which is posing by the window.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT SHARING THE BERKELEY WITH THE BOUTIQUE SHOWROOM FOR THE ALL NEW XJ?

    “I haven’t seen anyone walk past that window and not turn their head. It’s a truly striking example of luxury design.” 

  • AND WHAT’S SPECIAL ABOUT THE XK?

    “The latest XK gives me all the style, luxury and performance that I need and more. As a consumer, I’m not too interested in how it’s all put together, but I want to know that the detail’s there. It is a bit like preparing fine food. You are always looking for that ‘wow factor’ experience – you do what you do and you hope people enjoy it for what it is. That is true of any luxury brand.”

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