Marco Pierre White: 'Every kitchen should have a big chopping board - I'm talking 3ft by 2ft'

 

My earliest food memory… Collecting cherries, grapes, peaches and figs and eating them while they were still warm from the sun. My mother was Italian and I grew up just outside of Genoa. I remember being tiny, only about three years old, and being fascinated that when you snap a fig off the tree it oozes masses of sticky milk.

My store-cupboard essentials… I love HP Sauce, Branston pickle, Colman's mustard – the best mustard in the world – and Hellmann's mayonnaise. I don't make mayonnaise at home; I'm the same as everybody else in this country.

My favourite cookbook… I have lots of cookery books, a whole room filled with them. But I'd say my favourite is Great Chefs of France: The Masters of Haute Cuisine and Their Secrets by Anthony Blake and Quentin Crewe. It's the first book that really gave me a proper insight into three-star restaurants in France. It's got menus written by the great chefs, signed and dated 1978, which was the year I started working as a chef. Poached red mullet, a pigeon dish with navets, ballotine de foie gras on brioche – that book played a very big part in my obsession with gastronomy.

The kitchen gadget I couldn't live without… I think every kitchen should have a very, very large, heavy chopping board – I'm talking 3ft by 2ft, and an inch-and-a-half thick. It makes your life so much easier to have a giant board and a great knife.

My top culinary tip… Dissolve your fear of the stove. Once you've done that you can start to enjoy yourself cooking. If you overcook it, who cares? If you undercook it, who cares? Just have real confidence at the stove and you will take real pleasure out of it. Albert Roux taught me that. When I first came to Le Gavroche I was terrified. And one night after service, the great Albert took me into the office and said: "Marco, you can cook as well as anybody in that kitchen, if not better. Dissolve your fear of the stove." That was the greatest advice I was ever given.

My favourite food shop… Fortnum & Mason. It's like stepping back in time, it's run so professionally. They have one or two nice restaurants there as well but it's just one of the great food shops of the world, if not the greatest.

My favourite restaurant… The Walpole in Ealing. My old friend Louis runs it as a café part of the week and then opens for dinner at weekends. He's been my friend for more than 30 years and the one thing Louis does is feed you. Whether it's braised lamb or the biggest rump steak on Earth, he's the best.

My desert island dish… If I'm on a desert island, it'd have to be fish or shellfish. And I'd keep it very simple. When fish is that fresh you don't have to do anything to it. A little splash of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, just a sprinkle of crystal salt.

The weirdest thing I've ever eaten… I don't think frogs' legs, snails, winkles or whelks are strange. But I have had ostrich and crocodile; I had the crocodile smoked, I think.

My dream dining companion… Heston [Blumenthal] and AA Gill. They both have an amazing understanding and an interesting take on food.

My comfort food… I get real cravings for good vanilla ice-cream.

My gastronomic guilty pleasure… I don't have one because gastronomy is guilt! I was brought up in the French school of gastronomy and what people regard as indulgent is the norm – butter, cream, all the good stuff.

Marco Pierre White, 51, was the first British chef to be awarded three Michelin stars. He has been working with Knorr to create one-pot recipes for the comfort-food season. For inspiration: knorr.co.uk

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