Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Book review: The Devil in the Kitchen by Marco Pierre White

In the kitchen, the first three weeks was the toughest period for the new boys. By the end of it they were usually fucked, having lost a stone in weight, gained a dazed expression and cried themselves dry. That was when the shaking started. - Marco Pierre White

Well, not a conventional review. It has got me thinking, that's all, about my situation. The book is inspirational! / I haven't finished it yet - still sixty pages to go - but it is the greatest autobiography I've ever read. (Yes, even better than Bez's Freaky Dancin'.) Marco had some help from a ghost writer. That doesn't matter. You can tell it's his voice speaking.

Not only is the book very funny, but it's an amazing will-to-power story. (I'm listening to Beethoven's seventh symphony, by the way. Beethoven, the only classical composer I can stand because he wasn't a fucking ponce like so many of the others. I like Chopin on the piano though.) For me, the book is about how hard work can get you out of any shit - as long as you're completely obsessed. Also, it's about the importance of knowing when you've achieved your goal and then moving on. By the end of his "kitchen" career, Marco had been given three stars and five red knives and forks by Michelin. There was nothing else he could achieve. / It's made me more determined now to get away from this blog and concentrate on songwriting. My blog hasn't been recognized yet, but there's nothing more I can do with it. / Rimbaud and Lautreamont were the most revolutionary writers of the nineteenth century. They prepared the way for literature in the twentieth. Well, I've gone beyond them, not just in my content but with my invention of conceptual literature. (Respect to Duchamp for helping me see the importance and necessity of that move.) And I feel I've matched Kafka and Beckett. 'Yeah, Mikey?!' Oh yes, Voice. / Whether anyone agrees with me, I don't know and I don't care. I'm not interested in anyone's amateur opinion. 'Oh.' I've put my soul into this blog, man. But it's time to move on to music. Well, soon, soon, soon ... / There are reasons why I can't stop this shit yet. / I like the idea of working in high culture and popular culture. / I'm excited by my songwriting because I know it's going to take me at least fifteen years to achieve what I want. / I'm forty-four ...

No, not a conventional review. Just some thoughts, fragments. / Marco has been very honest in his book. Pretty amazing stuff. He seems to have a code of honour, and he doesn't like anyone - friends, family, or staff - falling below his standards. / When you're a loner you know who you can trust. 'Who?' Yourself.


Some great bits:

Now I looked down to my hands and couldn't see the keys. The pain in my chest wasn't easing. Had I swallowed them? Was it possible that I had swallowed my house keys? My sleep-deprived, adrenaline-fuelled, thousand-meal-an-hour, workaholic existence was certainly manifesting itself in strange forms. I couldn't die now, not before I'd won my third Michelin star.

On Prince Charles thinking he was French. / He looked at his assistant as if to say, You've fucking done it this time, boy. You've made me feel like the biggest prick in history. I had my picture taken standing beside a red-faced Prince and then off I went, into the kitchen to cook.

Marius turned up for work one morning saying he had a sore throat. I didn't send him home to bed like a sympathetic, experienced employer might have done. Instead someone or other mentioned that the best cure for Marius was Armagnac and Port, so we filled a brandy glass with the concoction and told him to drink it. Half an hour later, when Marius collapsed unconscious on the kitchen floor, we carried him outside to the freezing cold, dumped him in the courtyard and forgot about him. A snowstorm came and went before someone said in a shocked way, 'Marius.' We rushed out to recover his trembling body. Two hours after complaining of a sore throat, Marius was suffering from alcohol poisoning and the onset of hypothermia.

On the crap decorator of his restaurant. / He had made a mistake. The punch-up that followed was a release, in a way. For months I'd been staring at the chintz thinking, I'd like to meet this bastard and now he was charging towards the end of my clenched fist. Every swipe I delivered - and I delivered a few - was a blow for good taste. The kitchen brigade had to pull me off him. Ask Morfudd if you don't believe me. He staggered out of Harveys, minus a tooth or two and nursing a perforated eardrum. I had partially stripped him, as well. During the scuffle, I ripped an entire sleeve from his suit jacket, and it was left lying on the corridor floor, a casualty of battle. As his friends helped him out of the restaurant, he stepped on to Bellevue Road, looked down at his arm and wailed, 'This is Gucci, for Christ's sake.'

Update (9.20pm): I've been thinking. What if a songwriter were to work like Marco? A hundred hours a week. Twenty or so years. Constantly pushing for perfection. Constantly refining. What would the end result be?