Marco Pierre White’s: Wheeler’s of St. James’s

I’m tired of the struggle. I can no longer suppress it.

“I loved London,” the people say to me, “but I just got tired of fish and chips in pubs.”

Really? Do you go to New York and eat boiled hotdogs at dingy back street bars only to return with quips of, “I loved New York, but I just got tired of boiled hot dogs in dingy bars?”

I can’t tell you how much it hurts, which is why today I was soothing myself at a restaurant that Marco Pierre White owns. One of the reasons I travel is because of Marco Pierre White. Did I ever tell you that? Coco Chanel is the other reason. She turned a childhood locked in an orphanage into a revolution of beauty. People know Coco, or at least they think they do, and call her Gabrielle, or Mademoiselle Chanel, perhaps as terms of endearment, but people don’t assume that they know Marco Pierre White, and today it’s about Marco.

Look, I have to believe that the Renaissance still exists, and Marco Pierre White might as well be named Michelangelo Pierre White. That’s how Renaissance he is. If there was a fifth Ninja Turtle, Splinter would have named it Marco, and it would have been a butcher’s cleaver as a weapon of choice and he would have been Splinter’s favorite, not Leonardo and that self righteousness and those Katanas. I mean who can’t use a sword? All you do is swing. If you can play baseball you can use a sword and be an expert.

Marco Pierre White’s renaissance is not just that he is a chef, either, even though that’s a big part of it, because chefs are, by definition of the job, on the forefront of all of humanity’s forward momentum. For one thing, being a chef is white gloved, slap in the face with an I demand satisfaction, instant justice. In this duel, you either win and open up some hole and make someone bleed sustainable existence, or health, or forgetting about health for a moment if ecstasy is health, or the restaurant is the one that bleeds and people lose their jobs. For a second thing, it’s proof, absolute, DNA linked to the crime-scene proof, that a few folks, from a few different backgrounds or counties or classes, can put blood and sweat and tears toward creating a beautiful thing and then selling it, and not into killing each other. For a third, in order to wake up more than a few days in a row, humans must have food, and as long as chefs are pushing to elevate that most basic of human needs, and are not just serving gruel, then humanity is worth elevation for the sake of elevation, and the Renaissance is still alive. It breathes.

I won’t mention that chefs must perform all of this on a level that the people judging them are never judged by themselves. Imagine if the marketing junior executive, who leaves the two star review, ever received the same criticism of his work:

Got your potential emerging markets report. It was what I asked for but it was put before me a few minutes later than when I expected it to be put before me. In terms of décor, could use some updating on the font. Also, you didn’t smile when you handed me this report that I asked of you only a few minutes ago. I know I don’t even know your name, and couldn’t be bothered asking, and know not anything else about you, really, but, I mean, if you had called me sir, and if you had asked more than once if there was anything else besides the exact report I asked for that you could do for me, I might have considered your service as a bit friendlier, and given you a better assessment. In terms of the information in the report, well, I don’t know how to do it myself, and so I don’t quite grasp how difficult it was or what you had to go through to get it or really know the difference between this report and how others might have done it, so I can’t really speak to your talent, or to the quality of the information in this report or what it does for the company since I can’t do it myself. Oh, and can I have a couple of hundred of these reports done tomorrow as well, and all perfectly, with assessments delivered immediately upon their completion.

That junior marketing executive would be in the HR offices attempting to file a hostile work environment complaint but would be unable to lean forward on the desk to sign the complaint because of the weight from how many times he had shit himself.

It’s not just that Marco was a chef of chefs that inspires me so much, or that he bought a burger restaurant called Harveys in the not-posh part of London in the 80’s and from there changed the world, earning two stars in Michelin at Harveys before becoming the youngest chef ever to win three Michelin stars, and the first ever British chef to do so. It’s that someone could by a burger restaurant in the not-posh part London and take dining in London to the edge of the Renaissance. It’s an act as defiant to human stagnation as when Michelangelo was painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Unfortunately, though the chefs Marco has trained and spawned simmer all over Europe and America (dig deep enough into any meal in London, or even in America, and Marco in black and white glory from his book White Heat is back there in the chef’s subconscious, cigarette lit with the same match Marco used to light whatever fire first fueled that chef who just delivered your mind-blowing evening), one can no longer step into a restaurant where the great man himself is behind the stove. Marco no longer kisses his babies goodbye when they are still sleeping in the morning and then kisses his babies hello when they are already asleep at night in order to do things behind the stove that no British chef had ever done before him.

What you can do, however, is go to London and have fish and chips in elegant surroundings in a place called Wheelers, which Marco Pierre White owns, because he still wants you to spend elegant evenings in elegant surroundings. By the way, it’s the poshest bathrooms you will ever experience, and that, while having fish and chips, is so Marco. That’s so Wheeler’s.

So if you insist on fish and chips at anywhere other than your local chippy, don’t just go to London and trip and knock over the buckets of blood and sweat and tears that Marco Pierre White gave that London might live on the forefront of cuisine and everything that cuisine means to humanity. Instead, return back to me and say, “I loved London, and I hated to leave, because I just didn’t want to give up fish and chips in elegant surroundings, and the poshest bathrooms that never even existed in my dreams. It was a sensation, Johnny. A sensation.”