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Jazz Shapers

Shaper: Marcus Wareing

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Welcome to the Jazz Shapers podcast from Mishcon de Reya. What you are about to hear was originally broadcast on Jazz FM however music has been cut or shortened due to rights issues.

Good morning, I am Elliot Moss, welcome to Jazz Shapers. It is where the Shapers of Business join the Shapers of Jazz, Soul and Blues. My guest today I am extremely pleased to say is Marcus Wareing, celebrated chef and Co-Founder of Marcus Wareing Restaurants. Marcus wanted to be a chef since he was 13, he left school without qualifications but at Southport Catering College he came top in every exam for the first time in his life – “I felt like a duck to water” he has said reportedly. We will find out if he did actually say that, hopefully it is true. Gordon Ramsay’s protégée for 19 years, Marcus was awarded his first Michelin Stars at the tender age of just 26, one of only a handful of chefs to be recognised at that age. In 2008 Marcus and his wife, Jane founded Marcus Wareing Restaurants, a London-based restaurant group specialising in in contemporary British food inspired by Marcus’ Northern heritage. He also happens to be a Judge on Master Chef The Professionals and the author of no less than seven cook books and maybe there is more coming. We’ll talk to Marcus about all of this, his love for bringing technology into the kitchen and serving custard tarts to the Queen, I can’t say I’ve done that but we are going to find out what happened when he did. We’ve also got brilliant music from amongst others Marlena Shaw, Dizzy Gillespie and Freddie Hubbard, that’s today’s Jazz Shapers. Here’s Miles Davis with Freddie Freeloader.

That was Miles Davis of course, with Freddie Freeloader. This is Jazz Shapers, my Business Shaper today is Marcus Wareing as I said earlier and I am extremely pleased to see you. Hello.

Marcus Wareing
Hello, nice to see you.

Elliot Moss
Nice to see you too. How does a young child decide that he wants to be a chef? At that age, and I’ve got kids of that age, they are all over the place, I mean they love a bit of this and a bit of that, it sounds like you knew? How did you know?

Marcus Wareing
It’s a question I ask myself actually, I’ve got three children of my own. My eldest is 17 going on you know, 18 and he doesn’t know so I find it quite unusual that you haven’t got any aspirations maybe to want to go down certain roads. The world has changed without a doubt so I often reflect on how did I actually get here or to become a chef and it is very simple. I am a North Western lad from you know, Southport in Lancashire and I come from a very small place where there is not a lot going on, it’s a seaside town but it was all generated around my father’s business which was through potatoes and I think it all sort of, sort of stemmed from that really. I never saw a job outside of either working alongside my father once I’d left school or following my big brother who happened to be a chef and he is 7 years my senior. So those are the only really two things that sort of were staring me in the face, I’d never ever thought about anything else, not a plumber, not a… nothing else. I don’t know why, I just didn’t. And it seems quite archaic and quite old and that’s when you do reflect on the 1970s, we only had three channels on the television and that really…

Elliot Moss
I remember them well.

Marcus Wareing
….and that makes me feel very old and when I actually tell my children that’s all we had, they don’t believe me. Even the point that you had to get up out of your chair to change the channel makes them laugh so much.

Elliot Moss
A remote control, I think remote controls happened about 1980 or something didn’t they?

Marcus Wareing
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
I mean literally there were three channels and you had to press the button really hard…

Marcus Wareing
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
…and hoped it worked.

Marcus Wareing
So… it’s true and it was, for me, it was really an interesting time but very straight forward, basic vision and it didn’t take much to work out.

Elliot Moss
And what was it about school that didn’t appeal?

Marcus Wareing
It was the no-one ever paid any attention, not that I noticed, maybe I didn’t stand out. I don’t know, I enjoyed the sport and I enjoyed leaving at 3.00 o’clock. There was one thing I did enjoy at school, my sister wanted me to do because she enjoyed it, which was home economics. So there was an opportunity to go into a little kitchen. It wasn’t called home economics, it was called something else because you used to do all different other things you know, within that so it could have been sewing, it could have been other things but there was a part of those lessons where you’d go into a kitchen and you’d make things and I used to remember my sister, my big sister coming home with all sorts of lovely things that she made when she was at the same school I went to and I, I did that and how I ended up doing it I’ve no idea because it wasn’t, it didn’t feel right going to school with a basket of ingredients, the same basket my sister used which was seriously embarrassing. And going into a kitchen and making things like bread and little tarts and pineapple upside down cake was one of the things I made and I loved it and I felt it made me happy, it made me smile, it was fun and it made me very popular on the way home when I had a basket full of cakes.

Elliot Moss
You mentioned Southport and the size of the town and all that and you just made me think about the film Cinema Paradiso and there’s that moment in Cinema Paradiso where the older fellow says to the younger guy ‘just don’t come back, go and make your fortune’. Was there that sense of you leaving somewhere to go into the big wide world?

Marcus Wareing
Yes.

Elliot Moss
And you knew you had to and when did you feel that?

Marcus Wareing
It was my dad, I left school at 3.00 o’clock every afternoon and I would be in the warehouse at 3.45, changed and ready to go to wash up, sweep up, make tea, get on the wagon to go and deliver, go to the farms…

Elliot Moss
But I mean in terms of leaving Southport though? In terms of actually…

Marcus Wareing
Well it was working with him.

Elliot Moss
Okay.

Marcus Wareing
Night after night and weekend after weekend. There was a point where, I never forget it, it was about… I can’t remember the time but it was about the time my nan passed away which was his mother who lived on the premises. She was probably my closest friend because I used to hang out there so much but I used to hang out in the house and make tea and I used to go to the cake shop and get cakes for the workmen and so on and my dad just turned to me one day and said “this is not for you” and I couldn’t understand what he meant and he said “look, you can come into the family business if you want but go and do something different, just get out.” So I won’t actually say the words he said, he is a Northerner, and it wasn’t… it was pretty direct, it was ‘it’s not happening here mate, you know, go and find something different’. He didn’t tell me what to do – “Go and find something else because you’re not coming into this business, it’s over.” What he meant by that was, school meal services were changing into canteens so food in schools was becoming a tin, a freezer, a deep fat fryer and it was not home cooked food. Corner shops were disappearing because supermarkets were coming on to the horizon and restaurants were getting smaller and smaller and using more deep fried products than fresh produce. My father was all about fresh produce so he could see the time that we were in, in the early 80s was dwindling away slowly but he sensed it and gave me and my brother a push and so what was the only other thing I could see in front of me? Was cookery.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me to find out much more about my Business Shaper, that’s Marcus Wareing, right here in the hot seat. Lots more coming up from him in a moment. Time for some more music right now, it is Marlena Shaw with Women Of The Ghetto.

That was Marlena Shaw with Women Of The Ghetto. I am here today with Marcus Wareing, we are talking about, going back a bit in time, talking about where you grew up and those important words your dad said which was you’d better move on, it’s what you’ve got to do. That must be, I mean as a parent you know that’s a, a really big responsibility to say the right thing but it obviously just came from a place of this is what’s really going to happen but also he must have known something about you, Marcus. He must have known that there was something a little special that needed to be expressing itself?

Marcus Wareing
I don’t know?

Elliot Moss
Or am I just putting words in your mouth? Is that not true?

Marcus Wareing
I don’t know, my dad always said things as it was but he could see my work ethic was a little bit different to most people of my age and it, it stemmed from him really so I was inspired by him. I think his words were he didn’t really want to paint the path, he just wanted to just give you a good kick in the backside and a clout round the ear’ole as he would call it and really wake up because this isn’t quite happening here and I don’t know whether or not, if I actually think about it now, to push my son away, my son is 17, exactly the same age.

Elliot Moss
It’s a big deal isn’t it?

Marcus Wareing
Massive. I couldn’t do that to my son.

Elliot Moss
I am not sure I could either actually.

Marcus Wareing
No. So and that’s… I don’t know what it was like in those days. I don’t remember it as being harsh but my father did, you know, it was the time of Margaret Thatcher, things were really tough, there was lots going on in that era. I don’t think he expected me to go as far as London because I didn’t hang around in the North West or in the Midlands. Literally did the Catering College, got on a train and went straight, came straight to London, straight to the Savoy Hotel. So I went from one extreme to the other and that was quite a shock, I think for everybody really but maybe that was a bit of ambition that he saw that I didn’t know I had, underneath that, that sort of working boy sweeping up and making tea.

Elliot Moss
And you talk about your work ethic and that’s what people say, that you work incredibly hard, no-one gets to do what you do and set these restaurants up and be so successful unless they work really hard and then they’ve got talent. Is that the right order? As you look at people in your business?

Marcus Wareing
It is interesting because I actually spoke to my dad some years, once I’d come to London and I couldn’t understand the way he used to work – my father was a workaholic – and I asked him about the hours we used to work together and every Friday I left school at 3.00, I didn’t get home until Saturday night the next day. We stayed overnight together and we stayed working, my father would work through the night because he had so much work to do and he’d keep me there and I asked him why, why did he use to work so hard, why was I there? He said “because I was trying to sicken you of the business.” He tried to make me sick to death of working but he didn’t realise I was actually enjoying it. And I remember he used to send me up a cup of tea about 11.00, 12.00 o’clock at night to go make a cup of tea and I would fall asleep on the couch and he’d come and shake at 4.00, 5.00 o’clock in the morning, let’s get going again and it was that work ethic but I, for some reason I had a knack for it and I enjoyed it and I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere. But for me, from my point of view, you know, you talk about natural talent, I think you have to work at natural talent. I look at professional people in all different you know, worlds and I think everyone works hard to try and be the best of what it is they have chosen to be and that’s all I’ve ever done.

Elliot Moss
And those first few years, so you obviously, you do your Catering College, you are in London, you are at the Savoy. I imagine then and now it’s changed, I imagine that North/South divide was pretty punctuated, I imagine people looking ‘who’s this fellow from the North?’ I mean what were kitchens’ like at that point?

Marcus Wareing
I don’t think it was like that. I don’t know, I don’t think it was. I think the Savoy was a mix of so many different cultures. There was 110 chefs in that hotel when I walked in to that kitchen at 17, just turning 18 and I felt lost and unsure and whether I had done the right thing. I didn’t know. My parents brought me down and pretty much left me there one weekend, it was, you know, my first day at work was the 4 July 1988.

Elliot Moss
Not that you remember it of course.

Marcus Wareing
I remember that day very clearly and I remember being walked into the fish section at the back of the Savoy, the cold fish section they called it and there was three or four people in there and I just wandered in as this young kid and they gave me a hat, a tall hat and a long white apron and I felt very ‘wow this is the big world now’ and it was a Monday morning, Monday, Tuesday morning and I’d had my induction and then I remember walking into this section and it was on this, for some strange reason, it was above the road at the side of the Savoy and there was a window and I remember looking out the window and seeing my dad. He sort of still hung around and it was like he was wandering around the hotel, his son was in this big building that he couldn’t get into and didn’t want to go into because the Savoy was just like the alien place for him but he was outside and I just said “just go, just get out of here, leave me, go because I don’t want to see you otherwise I am getting on that train and I am coming with you.” I hated London. I didn’t like it at all. I found it a really tough place to live, very homesick but it was the get your head down and really crash through that work ethic that was in front of me which was tonnes and tonnes of fish every day, shellfish, you name it, it was in that part of that kitchen and from boxes of salmon, to turbots, to any, you name it, we, we went through it and I found myself very early on in the first few months, I ended up running the whole section. I ended up being put in charge of this, this department that bought more fish than the butcher bought meat and I find that quite unusual and that was, if I reflect back on it, was just the hard work I put in to, I could fillet that fish like it was no tomorrow, it was easy.

Elliot Moss
And just a quick thought. How long did you take to feel part of London? To actually go ‘you know what, I am alright here now’ versus those first few months where it was not very nice. When did you go ‘alright this is my city, I’m alright’?

Marcus Wareing
Probably about 6, 7 years down the line.

Elliot Moss
Wow.

Marcus Wareing
5, 6, 7 years down the line, I didn’t feel part of London, I still felt part of the North West because I couldn’t, I couldn’t disconnect from the family because to keep me through those first few years I would go home at night and I would call my dad at like 11.00, 12.00 o’clock at night and he was going to be in the warehouse, you know, I knew where he was and so we would talk. We talked to 1.00 in the morning and he would say, you know, ‘I’ve got a bit more work to do and then I am going home’ but he was always at the end of that phone and he would always give me that time just to say ‘keep going, keep going, keep going’ and it just kept carrying on and before you know it you’re 1, 2 years down the line and it was 2 years at the Savoy and then I jumped into a completely different area of kitchens which was then I went to, to Le Gavroche which is a 3 star Michelin, so from a 5 star hotel to a 3 star Michelin through his advice, was quite an extraordinary environment and that was where you know, I bumped into lots of very interesting people and that’s where I met Gordon.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for that next part of my story, or Marcus’ story, here it’s Marcus Wareing talking to me on Jazz Shapers. We are going to find out what happened when a man called Marcus met a man called Gordon. That’s coming up after this, it’s some words of advice for your business from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya.

You can hear all our former Jazz Shapers and indeed this programme again by popping Jazz Shapers into iTunes or your preferred podcast platform or you can ask Alexa to play Jazz Shapers and there you will find many of the recent brilliant people that I have been lucky enough to interview. But back to today’s guest, it’s Marcus Wareing, celebrated chef and Co-Founder of Marcus Wareing Restaurants. We are in London, you’ve met this man called Gordon, Gordon Ramsay and that really was the next however many, what 15?…

Marcus Wareing
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
…to 20 years plus of your life. Obviously we are not going to cover every moment of that for many reasons, it’s a long time and that’s the biggest one. If there were two or three things that you took from that relationship, the most important things and in terms of what you learnt, I don’t mean directly but just being around that and you know, you have a reputation for being a stickler and for wanting it right and anyone listening can hear that you’ve got a work ethic which goes back a long way. He’s not dissimilar. What are the, what are those big defining things that you’ve taken on, regardless of where you two are now?

Marcus Wareing
This is an interesting question. There is one thing that I learnt very, very early on from working with him, of knowing him and working with him, was his level of generosity and it was quite extraordinary and that it was that generosity of friendship, generosity of sharing, it could have been… his generosity of putting food on the plate, you know, I am a Northerner from a very hard background and my father was a stickler for money as in the precision of it, the understanding of it, the 10p he would make on a sack of potatoes you know, and so it was small numbers and he would always look at the small numbers and that reflected in me as a cook. So Gordon, he could see a hardness about me but also there was a meanness about it as well as a sort of focus, central focus and cookery is about generosity and it’s about sharing your, your thoughts and your thinking and that has to come on to the plate. So for the 2 years I worked side-by-side at the Aubergine with him, he really smashed that out of me and sort of got rid of that steely jacket that made me so harsh and so cold at times because I was so focussed, to learn to be generous. And that’s one of the biggest lessons I learnt by being with him.

Elliot Moss
You talk about the money then in terms of your dad and watching the you know, the small, look after the small ones, the big ones look after themselves and all that. And this goes to a point I suppose about business and about the arts of creating a really successful business at the highest end because that’s the hardest thing.

Marcus Wareing
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
You know, you are buying the most expensive ingredients and you want to put the most amount of time in so immediately, with the best people, your margins are going to be different and I hear this all the time.

Marcus Wareing
Sure.

Elliot Moss
It is much easier to make money elsewhere. What from a business point of view, because it sounds like generosity is one thing actually in terms of delivery. Where does the business acumen come from? Has that been on the job? I mean it is not coincidence they ask you to run the fish section. Something, there must be something natural in you that is about… that’s good at leading, that’s good at managing people?

Marcus Wareing
I think it’s the organisation. You know, when, everything I can see so far in this conversation I reflect back to my father’s warehouse.

Elliot Moss
Yeah.

Marcus Wareing
When my father bought things, we bought them by the tonnes, by the pallets and oranges and lemons, you name it, the basics from Liverpool market, from all over the farmers in the North West. When we were in that warehouse the precision of how we stored them, we looked after them, we took care of them, we made boxes of cauliflowers look great, we sold them on. There was no waste. If there was waste you know, you’d cut the waste off and you’d sell what was left and so on and there was this methodical work ethic. So when I went into kitchens I had had 5, 6 years of this so when I walked in to that fish section as a boy, I knew how to store things, I knew how to stack things, I knew how to look after things, I’d had 5 years in front. If even people who were a lot older than me in that kitchen, that’s what stood out you know, in that particular process so when it came down to business, I’ve got no business Degree, I’ve got no accountancy Degree, I’ve got no Degree per se, I just don’t have it. What I did when we joined Gordon and we sort of came together as business partners, his, well his one restaurant and my one restaurant which was L’Oranger and his was the Aubergine grew into this massive company that was put into many different restaurants, into many different hotels, we put restaurants and so on and then this head office arrived and this head office controlled things and so to understand the business side I used to go to the office and sit in every single department, the head of department, accounts, HR, sales and marketing and PR I was just curious about all of these things in this building that controlled the restaurants. When I was in the restaurant cooking, I thought I controlled them, but actually they were controlling us and that was where chefs found it very difficult to understand the importance of business, understand the importance of what it would be to do to be successful in today’s world or in any world. It’s not just about food on the plate, it has to turn into some form of business down the line. I spent 20 plus years just cooking and adding a little bit of business knowledge into it. Now I’ve got to bring the whole thing together and you know a percentage of everything to make the complete package so understand the marketing, PR, the business, the money, the salary, you know, the VAT, taxation, the bank account – the whole thing now. And that sort of excites me.

Elliot Moss
But custard tart or VAT? Which one is more exciting? Please be honest Marcus.

Marcus Wareing
It’s custard tart.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more from my Business Shaper, it’s Marcus Wareing. Time for some more music right now, it’s Dizzy Gillespie with For The Gypsies.

That was Dizzy Gillespie and Four The Gypsies. Marcus Wareing is my Business Shaper and we have been talking about all sorts of stuff around running a successful business. Your style of leadership before you left, before you, while you were with Gordon I imagine was different to when you had to go and run your own thing. Just talk to me about that, when you actually were in the hot seat and it is you. Is there a psychological change? Do you feel the responsibility in a very different way?

Marcus Wareing
Yes, yes I did. I felt that I’d sort of got rid of the biggest support mechanism that I ever had in my business life and working life, that we’d been together for such a long period of time and then all of a sudden it’s not there. That was 2008, December 2008 and I took over the Berkeley Hotel on my own. I had business partners lined up to come on board but that didn’t work out and all of a sudden I turned around and I had no massive corporation around me and no business partners and it was just me and my wife and it was 2008 and the scariest part about that was that was the beginning of the recession. That’s when we saw Lehman Brothers all walking out with their boxes off their desk and this was the beginning of the toughest 10 years of my business life.

Elliot Moss
Did you think you’d made a mistake at any point in that, those early days?

Marcus Wareing
No. Absolutely not. I was always, always going to do something and I, I always thought we’d always carry on being together but deep down inside I always wanted to have a go at running something, a company of my own. I just didn’t really think it would be on my own so that’s, the 2008, I had the restaurant for, for November, December and then we went into 2009 and that was the scary thing, is what’s going to happen in 2009 if recession has just happened. That was the talking point of everything at that point and the world and the economy was just all going to collapse and it sort of did, that’s when the business brain came into the equation and that’s where I had to really knuckle down. And I got a bit of a hard time in those days because I spent the next 5 years just consolidating my cookery, my business and managing how to, to look after this business in a tough time so I didn’t go to many awards, I didn’t really participate in many things and I got sort of looked upon as being someone who was maybe rude or arrogant or X, Y, Z…

Elliot Moss
But it wasn’t about that.

Marcus Wareing
…well who was going to bail me out if it went wrong? It wouldn’t be anyone that was criticising how I was doing things so I closed the door and I went back to my old self, I went back to that heads down, that selfishness and I am going to make this work whether it kills me or not and that’s what I did and I had no choice because recession drove me to that. It drove a lot of people to that. You either crash against the wall or you go through it and I decided to break through.

Elliot Moss
And you are in business with your wife, Jane and I think I read somewhere, I think it may have been your father saying ‘marry someone in the business so they understand’, I think it was your father.

Marcus Wareing
It was the last thing he said to me on the train when he left, when he left me. In fact when I went home for the first time and he came back and he took me to Lime Street, one of the last things he said to me, he said “Marcus, if you ever get married, make sure you marry someone who understands your world because you are a chef through and through. Never let anyone change you.”

Elliot Moss
Now, you said ‘never let anyone change you’, you become a Judge on MasterChef and there’s this man Marcus who has kind of gone through the ringer a bit, he’s consolidated, he’s put his head down and now suddenly he’s popping back up again. What’s the impact on you then?

Marcus Wareing
Well the MasterChef was something that when Michel lost his role on MasterChef Professionals, I remember reading a piece about it and I remember thinking ‘my goodness me who is going to get that role?’ – one of the best jobs in TV in food as far as I was concerned because it was all about new up and coming talent, it was MasterChef so it was a huge job in the show and I remember reading the piece online and I just you know, deleted it, got rid of it and thought that will be the end of that, that’s nothing to do with me, it’s just a piece of news. And the some time later I got a phone call to meet the producers and they came to see me and said you know’ we really would love you to replace Michel Roux’. I have to say I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing because I just didn’t see me as the character that could replace Michel. Michel being a mentor of mine, he’s 10 years my senior, I worked under Michel at Gavroche so big shoes to fill. But in my head if I looked in the mirror I just saw a guy who is working really hard, slightly aggressive towards the way he did things and didn’t really see the smiley, chirpy person that Michel was when he was judging MasterChef so this came in to me and I was asked to do it and Karen Ross who asked me to do it from Shy TV at that particular time, said “Marcus there is only two things I need you to do more than what you are already doing, that is do not swear and everything you say, try to say it with a smile on your face.”

Elliot Moss
I knew you were going to say that. I knew there was going to be, ‘you’ve got to smile Marcus’.

Marcus Wareing
And MasterChef when I went on to it, was probably the first time I learnt to speak about food without aggression or without swearing or without volume. I’ve only ever spoken to a kitchen and that was always at speed, and at pace and in the heat of service. So then going into this TV studio with no training, there’s no training, you just go in, you go with the flow and you learn along the way and it made me a better speaker, a better talker and actually I came back to my kitchen replicating and talking the way I was on the MasterChef set so I look at it and think it’s made me a better person but it has also made me a better manager. I am what I am but I love to go and be part of things and learn how. To pick up skills and trades and working on books and working in TV and seeing radio for instance, these are all really interesting skills and a new world that you know, we, we get the opportunity to look into and I think there is always something to learn from other people’s trades. MasterChef taught me a lot.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for my final chat with Marcus, plus we will be playing a track from Freddie Hubbard, that’s all coming up in just a moment.

That was Freddie Hubbard with You’re Going To Lose Me. I’m with Marcus Wareing just for a few more minutes. You’ve done a lot in your life Marcus, and you started working, you sort of said it, you had a 5 year head start on most people that would have hit a kitchen at the age of 16, 17. When are you at your happiest? When is, when are the eyes twinkling the most? Is it in the kitchen, is it when you are judging, is it when you sit at the end of the night and you’ve watched 200 covers go in and out. At what point do you go ‘this is alright’ for that split second I am sure before you start worrying about what’s wrong?

Marcus Wareing
There is two answers to that. I was at my happiest when I was behind a hotplate with no social media, no iPhones and no one distracting you apart from the waiter standing in front of you and the 15 chefs standing behind you. Pure focus and adrenaline to serve great food at high tempo, in a kitchen full of energy and excitement. So basically it’s the living life on the edge of the difference between the madness of a chef and the perfectionist in the food that you are striving for, that’s when you are at your happiest. If I reflect on today, I have to say spending time with my kids at their schools. I think it is my children who have helped me, or not helped me, there is nothing wrong with me, find new friendships, new, new things, going to great schools, great sporting events and watching my children grow up for me was something that my dad never saw us do because we was always at work. So when my dad finally did finish his business, or it came to an end, he retired at 55, he turned around and his four children had all grown up and gone and so he never really saw us outside of the workplace, his workplace and that was work, he was in work mode, he wasn’t dad, he was in work mode. We had one holiday a year and half the time he was asleep, we never really got much to speak to him really, he was unbelievable and so I vowed I would never do that and said that I would give where I can and find that time to manage my diary so that I could enjoy the times with, going to see… I know tomorrow I’ve got a hockey game to go and watch with my middle son, my other son is playing football and it will be on another pitch at Tonbridge and then I am going to head over and see my daughter play the craziest game of lacrosse. I thought football and rugby was rough, you’ve got to see the girls play lacrosse. Wow, what a cool sport. So I am really excited about tomorrow you know, going to see them and spending time with them because I think that’s the bit that gets me away from the, the central London life that I live and that I work in.

Elliot Moss
But that’s quite a journey isn’t it because the obsessive in you is focussed 100% from a precision point of view, from an organisation point of view, from a I’m going to deliver the best meal you’ve ever had point of view to this other world. But it, you’re not faking it I can see that this is real…

Marcus Wareing
No.

Elliot Moss
…but that must have taken, that takes some doing Marcus because you are in a highly pressurised environment and you are a public profile and so on.

Marcus Wareing
Yeah well I’ve, I’ve been in kitchens as you know, a long time and so I’ve managed my life to enjoy the best bits I can. 34 years I’ve been a cook and I’ve still got 15 more years in front of me. You get less for murder. So I know that these were going to come in my life and I wanted to make sure that I could organise. I tell you one thing, if my kitchen wasn’t functioning properly and I didn’t have the right most amazing team around me, that hockey game, that rugby game and that, that lacrosse game would be put on hold and I’d be in that kitchen. So it is a credit to the teams and the people that work for me, the fabulous people that enjoy this working life that I have, it’s all down to them and I couldn’t do it without them but if they weren’t there doing it, I would be doing it but I’ve learnt to enjoy management and to try and sieve my way through understanding what people want from their job and for working for me you know and I encourage, I also encourage people to, to move on from me and go and see other things and go and look at the broader picture. I love it when people come back and work for me but I also… one thing I do know about it, if you are going to work for me, you’ll never forget it. It’s going to be a little bit different, it’ll be a little bit different and that’s how I looked at jobs. I wanted something different from every experience I ever had and that’s what built my CV up. I just became a head chef a lot sooner than maybe most people do, I was 25 and that’s quite unusual and it doesn’t work like that today. You need to have a little bit longer and people need to get a little bit more behind them under their belt before they can, can become noticed. I got noticed at the age of 25 because there wasn’t a massive amount of competition and there was no social media activity showing you the world around you. I didn’t know what was going on in the kitchen next door to me let alone what was going on on the other side of the world. So to stand out today is even harder.

Elliot Moss
Well that was what I was going to ask you, just before I ask you your song choice. The one or two things you would say to a 15 year old you who, or 13 year old you who wants to be a chef – what have you got to do?

Marcus Wareing
Really study hard at school, study hard at college, get your A levels, go to university if that’s what you so wish to do and work really hard and be… make your choices but make them with an open mind but also really in my opinion, speak to your elders, listen to your parents, look around you and don’t chose a job just for the sake of having a job, go and find the job you want and go and get it and if you want it, you will get it. If anything, I got my job at Gavroche because my dad told me to knock on the door, literally knock on the door and that is exactly what I did. I was working in that restaurant one month later and so from my point of view you can have anything in life if you are prepared to really reach out and go and get that and as hard as that may sound to a lot of people, it’s just the way I used to think and it’s the way I think today. Nothing’s changed.

Elliot Moss
It’s been brilliant talking to you, thank you.

Marcus Wareing
Thank you.

Elliot Moss
A proper masterclass about someone who is really passionate about doing the thing they want to do and then going and doing it. Just before I let you go, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Marcus Wareing
I have chosen Sinner Man because for me it was a song that I, I used to hear it actually when I was young, my aunt used to… when I used to pop round to her house, she was a lover of music and there was always music playing in the house. When I remember my house I never remember music on and I hardly ever used to hear the news or the TV was never on at all so music was quite a small thing in my life but then this song popped up in the Thomas Crown Affair, you know, sitting along next to a movie, it reminded me of that time when I used to go to my aunties and she used to play it and so it was for me, it was an obvious choice because it’s the one that stood out and it’s such a long tune, quite deep, it’s got a lot of depth to it and it’s the song that I listen to that has, you can go into your own world. You can put it on on your headphones and it just goes on and on and on and on and I love it.

Elliot Moss
That was the brilliant Sinner Man by Nina Simone, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Marcus Wareing. He talked about a work ethic which came from years of working closely with his dad. He talked about generosity and how he learnt that from Gordon Ramsay. He talked about the importance of organisation and precision and really critically if you are thinking about a career in anything that you want to do, he talked about having the courage to knock on the door. Brilliant stuff. That’s it from me and Jazz Shapers, have a great weekend.

We hope you enjoyed that edition of Jazz Shapers. You will find hundreds more guests available for you to listen to in our archive. To find out more, just search Jazz Shapers and iTunes or your favourite podcast platform or head over to mishcon.com/jazzshapers

Marcus Wareing is a celebrated chef and Co-Founder of Marcus Wareing Restaurants. Marcus studied at Southport Catering College and was Gordon Ramsay’s protégé for 19 years. He was awarded his first Michelin Stars at 26, one of only a handful of chefs to be recognised at that age. His awards now include one Michelin star, Tatler Restaurateur of the Year and GQ Chef of the Year.

In 2008 Marcus and his wife, Jane founded Marcus Wareing Restaurants, a London-based restaurant group specialising in contemporary British food inspired by Marcus’ Northern heritage. In 2014 he joined the series Master Chef: The Professionals and continues to appear on it as a judge and mentor. He is also the author of seven cookbooks. 

Follow Marcus on Twitter @marcuswareing.

Interview highlights

I often reflect on how I became a chef.

Going into a kitchen and making things… I loved it.

It made me happy, it made me smile, it was fun and it made me very popular.

The chef tried to make me sick to death of working, but he didn’t realise I was actually enjoying it. 

You have to work at natural talent.

I am looking to pick people up on the things that they should be looking out for
themselves.

Deep down inside I always wanted to have a go at running something, a company of my own.

Who was going to bail me out if it went wrong?

I just didn’t see myself as someone who could replace Michael Roux.

I was at my happiest when I was behind a hotplate with no social media, no iPhones and no one distracting me.

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