Michelin-starred British chef Heston Blumenthal is rejecting the implication that he ever trained under Marco Pierre White. White — the British celebrity chef/restaurateur/bullion cube shill — is the mentor on the upcoming Australian version of MasterChef: The Professionals. In a promo for the show host Matt Preston introduces the contestants to White and says, "Many famous chefs have passed through his doors. Curtis Stone, Heston Blumenthal, Gordon Ramsay. Him, he reduced to tears. He is the godfather of modern cooking."
The Sunday Telegraph in Australia reached out to Blumenthal, who said: "Having gone through 30 years of toil ... for it to be intimated I owe it all to somebody else, it's really about setting the record straight... I've never spent one minute with Marco in his kitchen." In Blumenthal's own words, he did spend a very brief amount of time in one of White's London restaurants back in the 90s, but there's more to the story.
It's true that that Gordon Ramsay was a protégé of Marco Pierre White at Harveys in London way back in the day and that ex-chef and television personality Curtis Stone worked his way through three of White's restaurants.
But Blumenthal's back-story is that he's completely self-trained. The bio on his website reads: "Apart from three weeks in a couple of professional kitchens, he is entirely self-taught." In a piece in the Observer back in 2004 when Blumenthal won his third Michelin star, critic Jay Rayner recounts how Blumenthal and White worked together at Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir in Oxfordshire, but only for a week:
'I heard this voice shout out "don't stay over there. Come over here by me."' It was a young chef de partie by the name of Marco Pierre White, rescuing him from a confrontation. Blumenthal lasted only one week at Le Manoir, but he and Pierre White remained friends, his one real contact in the restaurant business.
In his 2008 autobiography The Devil in the Kitchen, Marco Pierre White writes about his brief experience with Blumenthal — "about a week working alongside me in the kitchen" — at Le Manoir. White continued:
Heston seemed keen enough, but after his stint of work experience he decided cooking was not for him and went to work for his father's business. It would be a few years before he reassessed his ambitions and we were reunited when I gave him a job in the kitchen at the Canteen.
The Canteen was the Michelin-starred London restaurant White opened with actor Michael Caine back in 1992; White left the restaurant in 1995. Blumenthal writes about his time there in his Big Fat Duck Cookbook:
I still had no practical experience on how to manage a roomful of tables of people all ordering different things at different times, so before opening the restaurant I spent three weeks at Marco Pierre White's Canteen, the only time (apart from my brief experience at Le Manoir) that I've worked in a kitchen other than the Fat Duck's.
It's unclear if during that three-week stint that the two worked together. So when MasterChef: The Professionals says that "Many famous chefs have passed through [Marco Pierre White's] doors" — sure, it's factually correct. But there is the implication that Blumenthal was in some way mentored by Marco Pierre White, which doesn't seem to be the case.
Here's the video:
Video: MasterChef: The Professionals