Do you have one? I do. I remember thinking, what the hell is a bucket list? And then my dad said to me, its stuff to do before you “kick the bucket”. English. So strange sometimes. So basically things to get done before you die.
Let’s say, places to visit, things to eat, goals to achieve. My list mostly consists of things to eat, secondary to that, it’s places to visit so that I can eat said things. Somewhere along the list, there are a few random names. Those names might not mean much to most, I’m a chef, my list includes a handful of these rockstars that are in the industry. A lot of them, maninstream now, thanks to Netflix, social media, MasterChef Australia, but when I started in this industry, unless you knew their names, you didn’t REALLY now them.
On top of that list. Marco Pierre White
White Heat, was gifted to me by a family member, about 15 years ago. I remember looking at this chef on the cover. This rough looking, gaunt, badass. His photo almost looked like a mugshot. I read the little blurb at the back and thought, OK!, this could be interesting.
In that moment, not once did I think that this man would be the “driving force” behind my career as a chef. I say that, knowing that my family pushed me to succeed. My dad drove me to work at 4 in the morning when I needed an extra 20 minutes to sleep. My mom finally gave up her kitchen to me and was happy to just wash up while I did countless recipe tests. They were and still are my biggest support system, but a “driving force”, like maybe that little voice in my head. That push, internally, when I was about to give up. His quotes and pieces of advise are on constant replay in my train of thought.
Do it with love. Keep it simple. Learn. Be humble. Stay focused. Allow your emotions to be your inspiration.
I’m never going to be that chef that takes 3 elements, puts it on a plate and tells you to enjoy your meal. I cook with butter, I season with salt, I use wine, I slow cook, I smell, I taste, I listen. I also over cater and theres always left overs. I cooked from my heart and let my mind follow after. I want you to sit at a table and see that glazed look of satisfaction when you take your first bite. I want to leave you with a memory, a moment, a feeling.
Marco does that. He cooks from the heart. Honest, classical, natural, simple. Key factors: good ingredients, simple flavors, elevated to bring out the best in a simple piece of fish or steak. Yet, don’t think that this makes it simple.
Ever had a really bad bolognaise? Overcooked pasta, horrible sauce, no seasoning? Has that memory stuck with you? That’s one of the most basic meat sauces in an Italian kitchen, yet, if it’s made shitty, it’s a complete mess, but making it with good meat, fresh herbs, sun ripe tomatoes, good wine, it gets elevated to something that’s worth remembering.
Ok, going off track here. So, where was I?
Marco. In a nutshell, all I wanted to be. Everything I looked up to, everything I admired in a chef and a person. He was at the top of his game when I was in diapers. When I finally read the book and discovered who he was, I was like a star struck dummy. I wanted more, read more, learned more. Anything about him, that I could know, I knew.
Yesterday, I met him.
For the past 14 years, this chef has set the bar for me. His precision, flavors, drive, passion, have moulded my precision, flavors, drive and passion. He cooked. A simple veloute made with shellfish stock. Pasta, lobster, loads of fresh basil, salt. That was it. I sat in a corner, savoring the moment.
I got up to meet him and felt an entire wave of emotion hit me, then I just started crying. He hugged me, wipe a tear away, told me that it will be ok. He was so worried. I could hardly talk. He must of looked at me and thought “What a strange little girl” I looked at him in that moment and everything made sense.
The countless hours of dedication, the burn marks, the cuts, the sore back, the bad shoulder, the sore feet, the stress. They burnt sauce, the fixed sauce, the 500 turned carrots, the 30kgs of mash, the 25L of split mayonnaise, the shouting, the heat. The tension, the chefs angers, the laughing after service, the countless flops, yet the satisfaction of one that just stays perfect. The complaints, the compliments, the fussy eater, the jealous co worker, the sabotage, the intimidation, the hours and hours and hours of sacrifice, the years missed, the days missed, the summers on the beach missed. In those few moments of meeting him, it all made sense. It all came back in flashes, and it was so completely overwhelming that I couldn’t contain the emotion.
He invited me to be his guest today. Before the event, I sat in awe, while just watching him, talk, drink his coffee, smoke his cigarette. Thinking, he has no idea how much he has impacted my life and my journey in this industry. I sat with him for a few moments and thanked him, but I could not really put it into words.
Sometimes a simple “thank you” is also just enough.
Bucket list : less one