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Marcus Wareing is going back to his traditional roots

Marcus Wareing (PA Photo/Jonathan Gregson)
Marcus Wareing (PA Photo/Jonathan Gregson)

THERE’S a difference between “tampering” with classic recipes and “improving” them, so says double Michelin-starred chef, Marcus Wareing.

The 47-year-old, best known for presenting MasterChef: The Professionals, and for running his three restaurants — Marcus at The Berkeley, The Gilbert Scott and Tredwells — has created a whole book based around that distinction.

New Classics, the follow-up tome to 2016’s Marcus At Home, takes traditional favourites and puts a spin on them, as well as offering up original dishes the Southport-born chef hopes “could one day become classics in their own right”.

Take his “new” pineapple upside-down cake — a riff on the first thing he ever made in home economics at school.

“That day, it was all about creaming your butter and sugar together to make a basic sponge,” he remembers.

“You lined a tin with butter and greaseproof paper, then put your tinned pineapple rings in, your tinned glace cherries in the holes in the pineapple, then put your mix on top, bake it, turn it out, and wow, hey presto — two or three actions and you’ve got yourself a fabulous-looking cake!

“So simple, but so much fun.”

His “new” version still uses tinned pineapple (although sadly no glace cherries), plus the added bonus of a load of rum.

“I do have a fabulous sweet tooth, but when I was growing up, fruit was a big part of our life,” says Marcus.

No doubt that’s the inspiration for his poached peach with oat crumb and ricotta pudding, and he has fond memories of the beautiful figs he’d buy with his father, who supplied local corner shops and schools with produce.

‘People only saw me as an aggressive, shouty chef, but I’m really a nice person’: Marcus Wareing on Michelin stars and Masterchef

It’s those experiences that are driving Marcus’s next venture — growing his own.

“As a chef in Central London, and who’s worked in cities, I just want to go back to my roots,” he muses.

“As a boy, I used to spend a lot of time going round farms with my father.

“I’d see farmers digging up the raw produce, the carrots, the swedes, the potatoes, and the herbs and beetroot that we used to get — it was amazing, but I never really understood the growing aspect of it.

“I’ve missed it, I really feel that I want to be part of that.

“So I’ve got some apple orchards and bees, and I’m going to start producing my own honey, and we’re getting ready for the spring crop next year,” says Marcus.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever done it in my life and I’m really excited.”

The idea is that, long term, he’ll have a kitchen garden to cook and write from, and “be inspired by what’s in front of me”.

In recent years, Marcus has been inspiring others as a judge on MasterChef, alongside dessert aficionado Gregg Wallace and the stern-but-brilliant Monica Galetti.

“Would I fear Monica?” he smiles. “No chance! She’ll probably hit me for saying that.”

Marcus admits he’s usually more interested in watching news and current affairs than cookery programmes himself, but does love Nigella Lawson, while the Hairy Bikers “just make me laugh”.

“I’m looking for personality, for someone who really wants to be here in the kitchen,” he says on how he identifies a MasterChef winner.

“I like someone who’s got ambition to really show us what they can do.

“Our job is to open up their brains and let them see what’s possible when you get those creative juices flowing.

“It’s on-the-job feedback at quite an intense pace,” he adds. “Some really stunning cookery comes out towards the end — absolutely mind-blowingly-exceptional.”

Marcus also confesses to an unusual ambition for 2018.

“I want to get some little piglets,” he says, excited at the prospect.

“I’ve never done it, but I’ve got some woodland on the farm as well.

“I want to put some piglets on there, but it’s all got to be done right, and then . . . we can eat them! Sorry!”

New Classics: Inspiring And Delicious Recipes To Transform Your Home Cooking by Marcus Wareing, photography by Jonathan Gregson, is published by HarperCollins, priced £20, and is available now.