Who would have thought these two enfants terribles would emerge as pillars of the Establishment? But they have. Damien Hirst, who broke the mould with his severed animal carcasses and heads preserved in formaldehyde, is a star of Charles Saatchi's collection currently on show in "Sen- sation" at the Royal Academy, of all places. And Marco Pierre White, the first Briton to win three Michelin stars, and the youngest chef ever to have achieved this accolade, has moved his restaurant into the stately Oak Room of the Meridien Le Piccadily Hotel, just a block down the street from Damien at the Academy.
This may not be so surprising, given their shared background. Both grew up in Leeds and Damien was at school with Marco's brothers. But they didn't meet until more recently when an introduction by a mutual friend triggered off a dramatic partnership, when they teamed up to re-launch the London restaurant, Quo Vadis.
Quo Vadis had been one of the grander old Italian restaurants in Soho, putting on the style for the older generation. Now it represents Young Style, invaded by thrusting movers and shakers from the television, film and business worlds.
White created the menu - the delicious lunch is a bargain at pounds 22 - while Damien Hirst created the ambience. Upstairs there's a long, clubby bar which doubles as an art gallery. There are more than 60 works on display at any one time, including pieces by Rachel Whiteread and Sarah Lucas. But it's inevitably dominated by (modestly few) contributions from Damien Hirst himself, with his sig- nature piece - the skull of a cow - scowling into eternity, locked in its formaldehyde bath.
There is a triumphant piece as you enter called Striptease, which consists of two full-size skeletons, a him and a her, and a brightly-lit glass cabinet displaying, as if an exhibit in a medical museum, thousands of pounds worth of beautifully-made, chrome surgical instruments. It's serious food for the mind, delighting and thrilling in a mystifying way.
Each of the partners keeps to his own role, though Damien, a working- class boy, suggested mischievously that Marco ought to put baked beans on the menu. "Yeah, with a piece of foie gras underneath," retorted Marco.
From the same background, the "estate" as he calls it, Marco in turn suggested Damien should hang three flying ducks in formaldehyde on the restaurant wall, the ultimate Sixties symbol of the working-class home. "I might do it," says Damien.
As they quickly got to know each other, Damien discovered that art had been Marco's best subject at school. And Marco found that Damien had worked in a restaurant in Leeds.
"Restaurant chefs have always got on well with artists," says Marco. "Jean Cocteau was very close to Fernand Point. Toulouse Lautrec was often seen sketching on tablecloths. Peter Langan was a good friend of David Hockney."
Damien Hirst, says Marco, is the best of all his contemporaries. "He is exceptionally clever. He's original." And the respect is mutual. "Marco is an artist," says Damien. "I've always thought of food as taste, but Marco introduced me to food as texture. You need to try his mashed potato."
More than that, cooking is an art form, says Damien. "Food's great. It's art without the evidence. It looks good, tastes good. It's a wonderful concept of art, it disappears. That's a good idea. You might look back on a work of art and have second thoughts about it 25 years later."
There are other parallels. "Cooking is the same as sculpture," says Damien. A dish is more than the sum of its parts. In cooking, one plus one is more than two. Put three things together and the result can be astonishing."
Does he cook? Certainly. "I was in Thailand, hanging out with some girls and it turned out their parents ran a restaurant, so we spent four weeks there cooking with hot chillies, lemon grass, fish sauce (nam pla)."
What did a working-class lad from Leeds think of such a thing, salted fish left to ferment? Damien was entirely unfazed. "Fish sauce was a Roman invention. It's the same as Worcester sauce." So it is, Worcester sauce is made with fermented anchovies and chillies. "All my vegetarian friends put Worcester sauce in their Bloody Marys. I have a special vegetarian Worcester sauce at home."
Home, and his studio, are in Devon where he lives with his girlfriend Maia and son Connor. "I do all the cooking. Most of the restaurants in Devon are terrible."
His favourite foods are spicy and hot. However, Marco decided it was more appropriate to dedicate a pig's head dish to him. So here it is. This dish can be made the day before.
POT ROAST OF PIG'S HEAD
Makes 6 portions
1 pig's head
2 large onions
2-3 large carrots
2 tablespoons olive oil
250g/9oz liquid honey
salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 litre/134 pints each of chicken stock and veal stock (see below)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
a dash of white-wine vinegar
1 shallot, finely chopped
15g/12oz clarified butter
15g unsalted butter
75g/3oz asparagus spears
75g/3oz baby leeks
75g/3oz baby carrots
Get your butcher to cut the pig's head in two and remove the brain and tongue whole. Reserve the brain. Put the head and tongue in a large pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Drain and refresh in cold water. Remove to a suitable casserole.
Brown the whole unpeeled onions and carrots in the oil in a separate large saucepan. Add the honey and stir over heat to caramelise the vegetables.
Add to the casserole, and turn over heat to glaze. Season.
Cover with the stocks, add 16 of the cloves, one sprig of thyme and the bayleaf, and place in the oven preheated to 150C/300F/Gas 2. Pot roast for about three and a half hours, or until the jaw bone starts to loosen from the joint.
Meanwhile, cook the brain. Remove the membrane, and cover the brain with water. Add the dash of vinegar, the shallot and the remaining thyme, and bring to the boil.
Remove from the heat and let cook in the water. When ready to serve, drain well and pan-fry to a golden brown all over in clarified butter.
When the pig's head is cooked, remove the head from the pot and remove the meat from the cheeks, temples and snout. Keep separate with the tongue. Pass the remainder of the cooking juices through a muslin- lined sieve and reduce to a coating sauce. Add the four remaining cloves and leave aside to infuse. When ready to serve, heat up the sauce. Remove the cloves, and stir in the butter.
Lightly cook the garnish vegetables in boiling salted water.
Place a little of each of the different pieces of pig's head, including the tongue and brain, on plates. Cover with the sauce and surround with the vegetables. Garnish with the chervil.
Makes about 4.5 litres/8 pints
2.75kg/6lb raw chicken carcasses, chopped
about 5.75 litres/10 pints cold water
3 celery sticks
1 large onion
12 whole head of garlic
Place the raw chicken carcasses in a large pot, then cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then skim.
Keep the vegetables whole, but peel them if necessary. Tie the celery and leek together with string - this prevents them breaking up and helps to clarify the stock.
Add all the vegetables and the garlic to the pot, then bring back to the boil. Skim and simmer for four hours.
Pass through a fine sieve. The stock should be a light amber colour, and clear. Store in the fridge for a couple of days, or freeze (but for no longer than three months).
Veal stock, simultaneously the bane of many domestic cooks and the mainstay of professionals, is used primarily because it gives a sauce so much more body - because of the gelatine in the bones used. It brings a sauce together. You can, of course, halve the recipe.
Makes about 3 litres/514 pints
2.75kg/6lb veal knuckle bones
120ml/4fl oz olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
12 whole head of garlic
4 tablespoons tomato puree
450g/1lb button mushrooms, thinly sliced
14 bottle Madeira
10 litres/1712 pints hot water
1 sprig fresh thyme
Cook the veal knuckle bones in four tablespoons of the oil until golden brown, stirring occasionally.
Simultaneously, in a separate pan cook the onion, carrot, celery and garlic in two tablespoons of the oil until golden brown without burning.
Stir the tomato puree into the vegeta-bles, allow gently and lightly to colour. Be careful not to burn at this stage.
In a separate pan, colour the button mushrooms in the remaining oil then deglaze with the Madeira. Boil to reduce down to almost nothing. Add to the rest of the vegetables.
When the veal bones are golden brown place in a large stockpot and cover with the hot water. Bring to the boil and skim.
Add the vegetables and herbs to the bones and bring back to the boil. Skim, then allow to simmer for eight to 12 hours, topping up with water to keep the bones covered when required.
Pass through a fine sieve into another, preferably tall pan and boil to reduce by half. Cool, then store in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze (but for no longer than three months).Reuse content