The Internets are ablaze today with talk of Marco Pierre White. As the New York Post reports (via Grub Street), the macho London chef-cum-restaurateur lit himself on fire last week at the Spotted Pig while “demonstrating a flaming Sambuca trick” to a group of friends, including Mario Batali and Anthony Bourdain. In trying to put out the blaze, White was somehow “accidentally stabbed in the hand,” the Post’s source said.
But while White—one of the original bad-boy celeb chefs, known for having made Gordon Ramsay cry—is still up to antics like this, Salon captures his softer side in an interview (site pass required) discussing his new book. He explains the revelation that led him to retire from behind the stove:
When I won my three stars, I realized that I’d worked for something all my life that I’d never wanted. I never questioned why, why was I chasing three stars. I never asked myself that question, because I thought it would give me happiness.
White actually called Michelin and “gave back” his three stars before that year’s guide was printed in 1999, rather than staying on as the nominal chef while someone else actually cooked the food:
To charge high prices and not be behind your stove, it’s against all my beliefs. Remember, my average dinner bill was $600. Eight years ago. That’s a big bill. And a lot of people who came to my restaurant weren’t necessarily rich people. It was a special occasion. Can you imagine: You take your wife out to my restaurant for dinner, and I’m not behind the stove. You find out I’m in America—how would you feel when you’ve just done $1,200 for dinner? It’s a sour taste, isn’t it?
At a time when so many name-brand chefs have no qualms about letting employees man the stove (while they’re off opening restaurants around the world), White’s stand is admirable. Of course, it hasn’t stopped him from opening restaurants around the world, either—he’s just hiring other chefs to do it. His first stop in the United States is up for grabs, but before that he’s founding joints in Shanghai and Dubai. I wonder where he’s getting his ingredients for those places.