White Heat – a kitchen book cult classic

When I started writing this, I was going to write about my five favourite books, I scribbled down a few ‘must have’ titles in there that I love, thought about some books that I get out every once in a while, and a then turned to a couple that I’m half way through just now. Then I thought back to that first kitchen book I read many years ago when I was a chef de partie, learning my trade, and that’s all I found I could write about.

A food book, chef book and recipe book with a difference

White Heat by Marco Pierre White is a bit of a cult classic, food critic Jay Rayner called it “possibly the most influential recipe book of the last 20 years” and even though he said that over a decade ago, it still holds true. The book was the first of its kind in many ways, nowadays we get food books, chefs books and recipe books coming at us from all directions but this was different, it is a memoir of a particular time, with Marco in his pomp both in and out of the kitchen, recipes that only the most enthusiastic of chefs would attempt all brought together with some stunning photography, capturing the pace, excess and expertise of Marco’s kitchen life.

Marco Pierre White - White Heat book

A book that immerses you in the kitchen

For me, as a young 20 something learning his way in the world of catering, it was a revelation. There were dishes and ingredients that I hadn’t ever tasted, combinations that were classics, and those that were revolutionary, dishes that looked like art and images that captured those kitchen moments of drama, excess, fun and stress, in equal measure. I could hear the stories that are written on the pages and could imagine myself in that kitchen for 16 hours a day, making pasta, prepping dishes and preparing the most delicate of plates with love and pride.

Marco Pierre White the book versus the TV

You don’t have to like Marco to love this book, in fact quite the opposite. The Marco that you see on TV now, and the one I see through the pages of White Heat are quite different beasts, you could love him or hate him, or not care either way, but the book stands on its own as a snapshot of that particular moment in time.

We all wear blue aprons in the kitchen – we’re always learning

As I flick through the book now, there are dishes that stand out, ones that are iconic and ones that I’ve replicated. There are dishes whose images are there when I close my eyes searching for inspiration. There are pictures that have inspired and basic recipes that have become staples in day to day kitchen life. It all takes me back to working in the kitchen learning about food and experimenting with flavours, which nearly 20 years later we still do. As Marco says “We all wear blue aprons in my kitchen because we’re all commis. We’re all still learning.”

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