TP TALKS TO... Marcellin Marc

by Travelling Peach

My childhood definitely inspired me to become a chef. It taught me about the importance of raising sustainable, seasonal produce and also about looking after the producers.

I was brought up by my grandmother on a farm so I began cooking at a very early age. We didn’t buy very much because we had everything we needed around the farm: vegetables, animals, eggs etc. The only thing we brought was fish. That’s it. We produced everything else ourselves. We also learnt how to preserve ingredients because, as we grew everything ourselves, everything we produced was heavily influenced by the seasons. When we picked the ripe carrots, we couldn’t eat them all at once so we used to pick them to stop the growing process and then put them back into the ground to keep them fresh and moist. It was a great way of preserving the carrots and enabled us to enjoy tasty carrots all year round. We also used to pickle the vegetables. Nowadays it’s ‘trendy’ for chefs to use methods like this but we used to do that on the farm because there was no other way. It was normal.

That was a great experience and taught me how to look after ingredients properly because if we didn’t look after them, they wouldn’t taste good. So, if I wanted to eat well, I had to learn to invest time and care into nurturing the ingredients. It was all organic and gave me a good knowledge of how food really should taste and what’s required to get it to that stage. It’s heavily influenced me as a chef because I know first-hand why we need to buy the best quality ingredients and why they cost so much. To produce products well and sustainably, the producers have to invest a lot of time and money. It’s an art. That’s why it’s expensive but it's also how you get the best so it’s important to look after all sections of the food industry – from the chefs to the guests to the producers; they’re all important.

Throughout my career I’ve cooked with some chefs who are very classical and others who are not. All of their food is very delicious and interesting but I like classical French cuisine the most and it’s what the guests at Clos Maggiore want too.

My menu is very honest. I think that when guests look at the menu they want to understand what they’re going to eat. People have a good palette and understanding of food these days. I want them to read my menu and get excited; not only when they read the menu and taste the food, but at the thought of coming to eat here. If guests look at my menu and think ‘Wow, I’d love to eat 80-90% of the dishes’, I know I’ve done my job. That’s why I try to be very classical whilst adding twists to keep things exciting and to refresh the flavours.

I’ve been here for 12 years – from the beginning. I met the owner, Paul Corrett, when I was in France and he wanted to launch this restaurant here in Covent Garden. I wanted to come to London and here we are. When we met, we didn’t know how long it was going to be for so we just tried to work as hard as we could everyday - taking it day by day - to make the restaurant successful and, 12 years later, it’s going really well.

I love cooking for everyone and seeing them enjoy my food but it’s always quite special when we cook for the Royal Family. Prince Harry, The Duchess of Cambridge, Pippa and Carol Middleton... they all dine here together so that’s lovely. For me, it’s quite important and I love the fact that it’s as a family – it’s exactly the type of ambiance we wanted to create at Clos Maggiore so it’s nice. It’s exciting for the rest of the team too because there are over 20,000 restaurants in London and they could decide to dine anywhere so we feel privileged.

Another good memory was working at La Clos De La Violette in Aix en Provence. I was the Head Chef there for 5 years and it’s definitely what made me the chef I am today and also a man. Working 5 years in the same place, at such a high standard and being in charge… this is where I truely discovered the food I wanted to cook and the flavours I wanted people to enjoy.

I love the rabbit. It’s a braised shoulder of Loire Valley rabbit with wholegrain mustard - a very classical combination that everyone knows works; however, it requires a lot of technique, work and a great palette. If it’s not done well, it can be very boring but when it’s done well… oh, woowww!!

I like the meat section but now, as Head Chef, I’m always on the starter section. The main reason is that all of the young chefs start in this section when they work with me so I guide and train them; then, as they improve and become good enough, they move to the hot section (fish and meat) and so on; but they all start at the starters with me. I know that at most restaurants the Head Chef is always on the pass just looking at the plates but this is my way. It’s important to nourish and encourage them.

When they see me, they all say ‘Oh chef, you know, you are with us everyday.’ *smiles* I know that they’re probably just trying to be polite. They would probably prefer me to be in the office or just see me for a couple of hours a day but, you know, it’s nice.

I love pancakes - the very thin crêpes. Pancakes and strawberry jam. I’ve always got a jar of Bonne Maman strawberry jam in my fridge and it’s so easy to crack a couple of eggs, 2 spoons of flour, a bit of milk and make some nice pancakes and this is lovely. I love that.

I love Frenchie’s. They opened one last year in the corner of Covent Garden; so not far from here. It’s really, really nice. I love his approach to food because the chef, Gregory Marchand, travels quite a lot so the restaurant has definitely benefited from these influences. It’s not completely different to what I do here but I love it. Obviously, it’s not 2 or 3 Michelin-starred but it’s very good. It’s affordable, very tasty, the service is relaxed and approachable, and the chefs have great skills. It’s so easy for me to go there at lunchtime or in the evening with a friend. You know, a glass of wine, a couple of dishes... it’s a nice, friendly and relaxing atmosphere. I love that.

Tom Kerridge’s restaurant The Hand and Flowers is great too. It’s a 2 Michelin-starred gastro pub but I love his food very, very much. I went there because when he won the Great British Menu he cooked duck with triple cooked chips and peas. I wanted to try it and it was on the menu there. It was lovely but it wasn’t just that. Every single dish on his menu was very nice. Nothing complicated to look at but all beautifully seasoned, cooked properly… very, very nice. I also like Tom as a man: the way he is, the way he behaves, the way he talks about food… you can tell he’s a passionate man. I love that.

Marcellin Marc is the Executive Chef at Clos Maggiore restaurant in London's Covent Garden.

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