With some TV chefs, it sometimes feels as if they became culinary experts with one eye firmly on a media career.
They constantly pop up on the box, fronting shows here, there and everywhere, while others are almost reluctant stars who perhaps regard small screen fame as merely an intriguing distraction from the hustle and bustle of their professional lives.
One who fits nicely into the second group is Marcus Wareing. He’s a familiar face thanks to his numerous appearances on a variety of shows over the past twenty-something years, most notably MasterChef: The Professionals, on which he’s a regular judge. But now he’s branching out, going solo with his own series.
It’s a 10-part run being broadcast each weekday for the next fortnight; it’s also a very personal project.
The Michelin-starred chef is allowing cameras inside his smallholding in East Sussex, a bolthole away from the stresses and strains of running his restaurant, Marcus, at The Berkeley in Wilton Place, London. Here life occurs at a slower pace – although that may change once he transforms the kitchen garden into a more workable area.
And really, that’s what this series is all about – Wareing travels the length and breadth of the country to unlock the secrets of planting, rearing livestock and growing vegetables, which he will then transfer to his own plot. Offering him advice will be the farmers, gardeners and producers he meets along the way.
No doubt he’ll be hoping the food he produces from his own land can be used to create his favourite dishes, which include a traditional Sunday roast. Eating them is one of his earliest culinary memories.
“I’ll never forget them, they’ve been there all my life,” he smiles. “But there were two things: the meat never had any blood in it, it was always overcooked; and the vegetables never had crunch, they were cooked until they were completely overcooked.
“I always remember the smell in the kitchen, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Carrots and swede mashed up, potatoes roasted until they were crispy as anything – they were always good, and there was always a good gravy – but the meat was always overcooked, always.”
Wareing also believes that nervous home cooks shouldn’t worry about making mistakes – they’re all part of the learning process, and claims he’s had his own fair share of disasters over the years.
Hopefully there won’t be too many in his new series, however, which begins as Wareing travels to North Yorkshire in search of pigs to add to his smallholding. He’s introduced to examples known as Mangalitza, which apparently have fun personalities – although that’s perhaps something that might put people off eating them.
Once back in East Sussex, the chef preserves some rhubarb to share with some fellow smallholders. He also harvests his apples and turns them into a delicious juice before demonstrating his recipe for an old Wareing family favourite.
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