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FOODIE FRIENDS Marco Pierre White says Rachel Allen is 'the most nicest person I’ve ever worked with'

'Of all the people I’ve worked with in TV, Rachel Allen is without question the kindest and the nicest and most wonderful person'

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Chef Marco Pierre White

Chef Marco Pierre White

Chef Marco Pierre White

It’s close to 11am in the morning and the unmistakable sight of Marco Pierre White bounds across his Dawson Street restaurant dressed in a buttoned-up cardigan and offering a glass of red wine.

He’s sipping one himself and is either being gracious with his offer or else likes some drinking company at what for even seasoned tipplers like myself was too early (I politely declined and had a cup of coffee instead).

It’s clear that Marco is a huge fan of wines, as he lists off a mindboggling array of vintage wines he’s a fan of, including one extra special one.

“I think the greatest wine ever created is a Château d’Yquem,” he proclaims. “I once owned a bottle — they reckon there was maybe eight bottles left in the world — of Château d’Yquem 1847, which is regarded as the greatest d’Yquem in the world.”

That bottle of wine appears to have found a nice home inside Marco and it was obviously an expensive treat - a Château d’Yquem 1847 sold four years ago for the princely sum of $40,000 (E36,000)

Marco turns 60 next Saturday and the handsome chef looks younger than the six decades he’s notched up. “I haven’t got there yet,” he stresses. “I watched my mother die at 38. I was six, she was 38, so I don’t take it for granted that I will live…” His mother died of a brain haemorrhage.

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Eugene Masterson chats with the always entertaining Marco Pierre White

Eugene Masterson chats with the always entertaining Marco Pierre White

Eugene Masterson chats with the always entertaining Marco Pierre White

He is in Dublin to film the Christmas special of his Virgin media show The Restaurant, on which singer Mary Black is celebrity chef and who will also be judged by Galway restaurateur JP McMahon and regular Rachel Allen.

The former enfant terrible of the restaurant trade becomes animated when talking about Rachel, after being asked who he has most admired during his stint on the popular culinary series.

Besides food, Rachel and Marco (a father-of-four who has been married three times) also share a common thread in that they both have sons who has been in trouble with the law.

Rachel’s son Joshua has had a much publicised court case involving cocaine possession (which she recently bravely addressed on her Living With Lucy TV show), while one of Marco’s sons, Marco Jnr, has appeared in court in England on various charges, including possession of heroin and theft.

“We discussed that the other day, it’s not too dissimilar,” he admits. “I heard about the show. I heard she is amazing. I was told so beautifully honest, which she is.

“She is an amazing lady. A beautiful beautiful girl, big heart. She has an honesty.

“Of all the people I’ve worked with in TV, Rachel Allen is without question the kindest and the nicest and most wonderful person I’ve ever worked with.”

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Marco grew up on a council estate in Leeds and now a multi-millionaire, earning three Michelin stars at the age of 32 and now owning seven restaurant brands and dozens of franchises around the world.

He also owns two flagship restaurants in Dublin, a city he holds close to his heart. “I always stay in the Shelbourne, one of my favourite hotels in the world,” he reveals. “The staff are so beautiful. Really really kind, so kind to me. What’s very obvious, they are very appreciate of your business. It’s one of those old-fashioned proper hotels, it’s done in that proper way.

He likes to get out and about and sample other restaurants here, including a fish one in Howth and also Cavistons in Glenageary.

“The last time I was here I went to Johnny Fox’s, it’s extraordinary in there,” he says of the famous gastropub in the Dublin mountains. “I had bacon and cabbage there. I loved my evening there.

“They gave me a bottle of 10-year whiskey, which I drank, which I thought was very good.”

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Marco and Rachel Allen. Pictures: Steve Humphreys

Marco and Rachel Allen. Pictures: Steve Humphreys

Marco and Rachel Allen. Pictures: Steve Humphreys

During his stay in the lead up to our chat he enjoyed the night before a lamb dinner, and before that, an entrée of steak, both finished off with a plate of cheese.

“Very rarely do I have three courses, I tend to have two,” he confirms. ““Sometimes I may stretch to a third course, as I want to polish off the red wine. In a perfect world, I would have maybe some shellfish to start with, some fresh crab, a cocktail of Dublin Bay prawns

“Then I’d have a nice steak, or a nice piece, very simply done, but generously. Then I would have a bit of cheese. Lemon tart would be my favourite dessert.” He has spent his lockdown time busy in his garden.

“I’ve done a lot of gardening, I love gardening,” he beams. “I’ve now made the decision to turn my garden into a nature reserve. “I struggle with crowds. Every morning when I’m in England I spend four to five hours a day in the garden by myself, just reflecting, observing, processing.”

Marco is polite, engaging and very charismatic during our 20-minute meeting. He becomes reflective when telling of how he’s gone on trawlers or visits abattoirs to see at first hand the food process.

“When I go to an abattoir, I always leave disturbed,” he points out. “So, I have to be detached being a cook, otherwise I would not eat meat.”

When told that he can appear slightly arrogant but fair on his TV show, he ponders for a bit.

“Arrogance terms to be born out of insecurity and I can assure you of one thing, I’m not insecure,” he argues. “I’m a great believer in facts. It’s like in Hell’s Kitchen. Because I don’t swear. They have to find another angle, don’t they. They tend to focus on my eyes and my look, to make me look mean.”

He reputedly once made protégé Gordon Ramsay cry during one flare-up in a kitchen they once shared.

“He called me the other day actually and asked me about doing a show with him,” he retorts.

“You don’t have the ability to make the other cry, people make themselves cry.

“I have cried in the kitchen - the only time I have ever cried in the kitchen is when I’ve been chopping onions!”

  • The Christmas special of The Restaurant is on Virgin Media One on Tuesday December 14.

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