Friday 23 February 2018

'Tom didn't quit: he was fired - and he needs to check his moral compass,' says chef Marco Pierre White

In a top table spat, chef Marco Pierre White says judge Tom Doorley was sacked from TV show 'The Restaurant', writes Niamh Horan

Tom and Marco on the show
Tom and Marco on the show
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Marco Pierre White possesses that strange ability to utterly charm and leave you feeling on edge - all at the same time. It's hard to tell if it's that intense gaze, his slow purposeful tone or the fact that his bad-boy reputation proceeds him.

But would I want to get on his wrong side? No.

So when Tom Doorley, TV3's former The Restaurant food critic, hit the headlines in recent months telling all and sundry why he left the show, it was never going to end well.

In a newspaper column last September, he told readers he could no longer stomach the three Michelin-starred chef. He said Marco's dominant personality had become an issue while filming and laid out the charges.

Niamh Horan with Marco Pierre White. Photo: Mark Condren
Niamh Horan with Marco Pierre White. Photo: Mark Condren

He wrote: "Suddenly The Restaurant was transformed into The Marco Pierre White Show for series 13. We abandoned Wineport near Athlone, where we had done the programme for years, and transferred to Marco Pierre's restaurant in Donnybrook, where he now took, literally, centre stage."

He also described the restaurateur as "unbearable", a man who spoke over other critics, "never shutting up" and someone who was "f***ing patronising".

It turns out Marco hadn't heard any of this. And so I read the slights out to him, one by one, to an air of deathly silence.

I whisper: "He says that you're a human vortex; that when you have an audience, everything is in orbit around you and that you will not take any direction from the crew. He also says you have 'dinosaur tendencies' and that your attitude to women belongs from the 1970s."

Marco remains very calm. And when he eventually delivers his verdict, it's a filleting. "That says more about Tom than it does about me. It is like he is writing about himself."

Marco wants to make clear that Tom didn't quit, he was sacked.

Chefs and contestant Donnacha O’Callaghan on TV3’s ‘The Restaurant’
Chefs and contestant Donnacha O’Callaghan on TV3’s ‘The Restaurant’

"He is clever the way he worded it… It seems like it was his choice to leave. The headline reads ['I cannot work with Marco Pierre White. I'm done with The Restaurant'] - when the reality is he was sacked."

He puts Doorley's comments down to his fresh wounds. "This is a man who is hurting. So therefore he will write unnecessary things, because that is what he will do for a small cheque."

Then he hones in on an article the food critic wrote about him six months previously, in March 2017.

Back then, the men were on good terms. Tom had a prominent role on Marco's show. He travelled to Rudloe Arms in Bath, England, to dine at his home, and afterwards wrote: "I used to think Marco was self-obsessed, but no longer. He is a troubled man with a good heart and more than a residue of genius."

Marco feels the two articles are worlds apart and says the most notable thing that happened in between is that Tom was fired.

"A few months prior he's praising me and saying wonderful things about me and then he is saying this?" shrugs Marco.

"At the end of the day Tom is Tom. I am not here to say bad things about him - because as a child I was taught if you haven't got anything nice to say, then don't ever say it.

"And so therefore I haven't said anything nasty about him, and why would I? It wasn't my decision that he got sacked. Why take it out on me?", he said.

Sources close to the show confirm that it was an appearance on Bobby Kerr's radio programme that prompted a call to say his services would no longer be required.

"Tom criticised the show's scoring, and in our mind you just don't do that. He got a call from the show's bosses and was told: 'That's not on! You haven't been happy on the programme for a while and so it's best if you are given a rest for a season and then we will revisit it.'

"And then he went on to write that article. So it was our decision, it was definitely our decision."

What really seems to grate on Marco's nerves, however, is the fact that he had opened his doors to the journalist, who then went on to publicly insult him.

"I sit here thinking 'where is the moral compass?' He came to my home. He slept in my beds. He ate my food and then went off and wrote wonderful things, which I thought was very kind of him, and then he was sacked and then he wrote what he wrote. How can you stay in someone's house, accept their kindness, write glowing things, enjoy their company and their time and then say that?"

He is adamant he didn't give producers the nod for the chop: "It wasn't my decision, I don't make decisions like that."

When contacted for a response, Tom Doorley said he wasn't deeply bothered by Marco's comments. He added that he liked Marco on a personal level but that was separate to finding him difficult to work with, and said that his second column was not a result of any sacking - but instead came out of a need to explain why he didn't want to continue on the show.

In the meantime, Marco says Tom's criticism of him would almost deter him from ever returning to these shores. "I come to Ireland to do something very simple: I come to fly the flag for Ireland. And it's articles by Tom Doorley that make me never want to come back to Ireland again."

Which is unfortunate for viewers of his new show, filmed from Marco Pierre White's in Donnybrook. The series has been phenomenally successful with its Irish audience.

That night I dine at the restaurant and the food - a spinach roulade starter, herbed lamb and lemon tart- - is remarkable.

Marco is in flying form and hands me a signed copy of his book. I joke that he has now learned the lesson of a lifetime: never open your home to a journalist. And then he does the surprising and invites me to Rudloe Arms for dinner. Who am I to say no to a man who has earned as many Michelin stars as he has ex-wives?

Stay tuned for the follow-up column.

The new series of 'The Restaurant', hosted in Marco Pierre White Courtyard Bar & Grill Donnybrook, will air on Wednesday, February 21, on TV3 at 9pm

Sunday Independent

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