Marco White - Biography
Dubbed the enfant terrible of the restaurant scene, Marco Pierre White is as famous for his fiery temper as he is for his prowess in the kitchen. The original celebrity chef, he'd earned three Michelin stars by the age of 33 - becoming the youngest chef ever to do so - and truly put the British culinary scene back on the map.
Born to an Italian mother - who passed away when he was a toddler - and a father who was a chef by profession, Leeds-born Marco left high school with no qualifications. Setting his sights on a career in the restaurant business, however, he moved to London - aged 16 with just £7.36 in his pocket - to try his luck at breaking into his chosen field.
The plucky teen got a taste for the industry as a commis - an apprentice chef - under legendary French maestros Albert and Michel Roux. Albert, who was responsible for the first restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star in London - Le Gavroche in Mayfair - took the talented youngster under his wing, often describing him as "my little lamb". From there, Marco went on to work in a string of critically acclaimed eateries before branching out by himself with American assistant Mario Batali.
His fiery nature came to light early on, as he regularly ejected customers from his restaurants if he didn't agree with their comments about his food. On one famous occasion, when a customer requested a side order of chips with his lunch, Marco obliged - hand-cutting the potatoes and personally cooking them. However, he charged the customer an extra £25. And on another, when an assistant complained about the heat in the kitchen, Marco cut open the back of his trousers and jacket with a kitchen knife.
A glittering portfolio of restaurant work followed, but in 1990 it became apparent all was not well. Marco collapsed from exhaustion and high blood pressure, leading to a period of recuperation in France. Nine years later, he handed back his Michelin stars and hung up his chef's hat, putting his retirement from the kitchen down to a desire to spend more time with four children - Letitia - who was born during his two-year-marriage to Alex McArthur, a surgeon's daughter from Buckinghamshire - and Luciano, Marco Jnr and Mirabell, from his union with third - now ex - wife, bartender Mati Conejero.
"I had three options," he said at the time. "I could be a prisoner of my world and continue to work six days a week, I could live a lie and charge high prices and not be behind the stove or I could give my stars back, spend time with my children and re-invent myself."
Taking things easy, he subsequently released a number of recipe books - including Wild Food From Land And Sea and White Heat. He was back in the spotlight a few years later, though, when in 2007 he assumed his arch-rival and former protégé Gordon Ramsay's role on hit TV show Hell's Kitchen. His participation in the programme led to a hugely successful spin off book and on the back of its popularity he signed up to front a cookery show in the US in 2008.