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Marco: 'I've said goodbye to my friendship with Gordon Ramsay'


Marco Pierre White

Marco Pierre White

Marco Pierre White

Marco Pierre White is warming to my idea of a statue erected of him in Dublin one day. I suggest that the Irish people would be fully behind such a concept given that the rock 'n' roll restaurateur once physically ejected - count 'em - 54 bankers from one of his establishments in London.

When I tell him that banks are not overly popular in Ireland, he laughs and says that he threw the fine specimens of the banking world out of the restaurant because "they were rude".

"The bottom line is I refused to cook for them. I told my manager, 'Get their coats'. I will never ever tolerate people behaving badly or treating the staff badly. I'm a great believer that restaurants are for the people."

I ask him is it true that when he physically removed the aforesaid 54 bankers, one of them, minus the sleeve of his designer jacket, and was last seen on the pavement screaming at Marco, "This is Gucci, for Christ's sake. Gucci!"

Marco cackles with laughter: "Jesus! I don't know that bit! I don't know about the sleeve coming off! It was so long ago."

Marco tells a great story too. When he cooked for Prince Charles, the future King of England talked to the chef in French for the first 10 minutes because he assumed Pierre White was French because of his name. "I had to tell him I didn't speak French," he says.

His mother, Maria-Rosa Gallina, died of a brain haemorrhage in front of him when he was six years of age. Many of the late-night conversations I've had with Marco have been about death and our respective mothers, but he is also extremely funny company.

His close friend, Madonna, sat beside him at his 40th birthday party in London. "She was wearing a jockey's cap," he laughs. "And when Northern comic Bernard Manning arrived, he said to her, 'Who the fuck do you think you are? Lester Piggott's sister?'"

You can see why Michael Fassbender is apparently in the frame to play Marco in a movie, should it ever get made. (Marco is a mate of mercurial movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, so you never know).

Legendary tales abound: the time he once called Tony Blair an unprintable 'C' word; or the tale that he made love to a beautiful female customer between courses at his London restaurant Harveys in the late 1980s. Of his arch-enemy Mr Ramsay, I ask is that friendship gone forever?

"I have no problem with Gordon," he claims. "He turned up at my wedding with a camera crew hidden in the bushes. You wouldn't be happy, would you, if I did that at your wedding? You'd have to make a decision: do I continue my friendship or do I say goodbye to my friendship? I choose to say goodbye to my friendship. Look, whether he is a nice person is an irrelevance," Marco adds, "he is one of the great cooks."

Marco has two restaurants in Dublin: MPW White Steakhouse & Grill on Dawson Street, and MPW Courtyard Bar & Grill in Donnybrook, which opened in September 2013.

He is flying over to Dublin in two weeks for a book signing of his re-issued book White Heat, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

The photographs in it were taken by late Irish photographer Bob Carlos Clarke. On March 25, 2006, Bob checked himself out of the Priory Hospital in Barnes, southwest London, walked a short distance to a railway track, and jumped in front of a train.

"I miss Bob, dearly," Marco says now. "In the last year of his life, I became very close to Bob. I'd meet up with him a lot. He'd come for lunch. We'd talk for hours."

Marco talks of another Irish man, no longer with us, who he got to know well: the late Gerry Ryan.

"Gerry was a great interviewer. He was kind, he was generous. He admired people who had done things in their lives. He had a love affair with the restaurant world. He was interested in people."

Marco, believes that Irish food has improved enormously. "Look at all the great new restaurants in Dublin," says Marco, (the youngest ever chef, at 33, to win three Michelin stars before giving them back because he was "bored").

"Dublin is quite New York-y now," he says. "Some great places. I had a very good meal in Chapter One the last time I was over."

Would Marco ever move to Ireland? "Ireland is a country I could live in, because I like the people. The Irish people remind me of days in Yorkshire as a boy. They are very real. Very supportive, real people - that's why I opened two restaurants in Dublin. I love the Irish people. They have something real about them.

"As my dear mother used to say: a tree without roots is a piece of wood."

Sunday Independent