IT’S 9AM and Marcus Wareing looks very tired. We’re in the kitchen at his self-named Mayfair restaurant, the best in London, according to Harden’s Guide. It is unusual for a chef of Wareing’s fame and brand-power to be so involved in the kitchen, but he is nothing if not hands on. “This morning I’ve been cutting up fish and foie gras,” he says, glancing at his team as if he’d really rather be in there with them.
He sleeps four hours a night – hence the tiredness – and is in the kitchen for 11 out of 14 services per week. “You wake up after your four hours and you are physically screaming,” he says. “Then you have a shower and you come out feeling better and say to yourself: ‘I got through that’. I love the pain of it. It’s my drug.” He adds: “I’ve got other people to be in the office. An office is not a place for a chef.”
Passion, evidently, is Wareing’s thing. At one point he says that he hates young chefs who “disrespect veg”. But he is also a mean businessman: “Making money is my second favourite hobby.”
The result is his two Michelin-starred restaurant, something that he is clearly proud of. “If you put your name across the door, you’ve got to spend all your time there. It’s just a matter of honesty. People ask me why I work the hours I do. The answer is that I love it. It’s what I do. You show me one truly successful person who doesn’t put in the hours. Look at the City – that’s why they have those business blowouts here. They work hard and when they get here, they let their hair down.”
Wareing was born in Lancashire in 1970, the son of a fruit and potato merchant father. His career started at The Savoy when he was 18. From there he moved to Le Gavroche to work alongside Albert Roux. In 1993, he began working alongside Gordon Ramsay at Aubergine, which won two Michelin stars within three years of opening. In 1996 Wareing opened L’Oranger under Ramsay and in March 1999 he opened Petrus in The Berkeley Hotel. Within seven months it had won a Michelin star. After a vicious split with Ramsay, in 2008 Wareing took over Petrus under his own name and has garnered global acclaim for it.
Though he admits he is glad to no longer be working with Ramsay (they split acrimoniously), he still respects the man. “It really pisses me off when people slag Gordon off for being a sell-out. I saw him work his bloody arse for years. He earned it,” he says.
With all this work, though, where does he find time for his wife, Jane, who helps run the business as well as mothering their three children? “She’s used to it,” he says. “Don’t ask me to change, or to take this apron off, because I won’t do either, and she knows that. I was very honest about it. I pity the guys with wives who haven’t worked in hospitality. They get it 24/7 because the wives don’t understand how it is.”
If his tone is macho, it’s not because he has a problem with women chefs. His sous-chef, who is also the co-author of his new cook book, is a female former lawyer. “Women are a must in the kitchen, they break the tone, cut through all that ego crap. But girls just have to be prepared that there’s no social life as such, you don’t meet people outside work, which can be hard with the whole maternal clock issue.”
So what’s next for Wareing? “When I turn 40 next June I’m going to make some changes – I’ll die if I keep this up,” he says wryly, but not unseriously. It’s unlikely he’ll putting his feet up, though. “I want to be the best restaurant in London, according to me. And we’re not there yet.” Marcus Wareing’s book, Nutmeg and Custard, is out now from Bantam for £25.