Chef’s Table: Marcus Wareing

Have you ever wondered what a chef cooks at home or if their kids behave any better than yours in a fine dining restaurant? In this series we grill some of Britain’s best chefs for the lowdown, starting with father of three, Marcus Wareing.

Who does the cooking at home?

During the week, my wife Jane does the cooking as I am always working. On the weekends and when we are entertaining, we share it.

Do you achieve 7-a-day?

We try our best! We really encourage our children to eat well and understand the importance of a healthy, varied and balanced diet. They all use our Nutribullet as they like the experience of throwing things into it and blending it up – we have frozen fruit in the freezer and there’s always loads of fresh fruit and veg.

What is your view on sugar for kids?

Everything in moderation. We make the kids aware of why treats are good or bad and we are more aware now of hidden sugar. They don’t have fizzy drinks and we make our own smoothies instead of buying them.

Do you have memories of food from your childhood?

My father was a fruit and potato merchant so I grew up around food and we always had amazing fresh, seasonal produce in the house. My Mum is a fantastic cook so we had lots of hearty homemade meals. Most memorable are her pork steaks with loads of sliced onions cooked in butter on the top, we had Sunday roast every Sunday – and loved the cold meat leftovers.

What are your children’s favourite dishes?

They are good eaters and love trying new things; curry is always a winner (we are gradually making it hotter). At the moment they love spaghetti carbonora and over Christmas we let them have a go at making their own pasta which was a huge success – despite taking hours! They love chicken and mushroom pathivier – Jane did this with the kids a few weeks ago and it was brilliant. I think the family favourite would have to be Jane’s homemade lasagne and garlic bread with a salad. Jane makes the best lasagne on the planet.

Are your kids picky eaters?

No, not on the whole, because we encouraged them away from this. Our eldest son Jake (13) has always wanted to impress me by trying things, even mushrooms, which he never liked: he kept trying them and now he does. Archie (10) has just started to develop wider tastes, we couldn’t push him when he was younger but now he is very willing. And Jessie (7) would quite happily eat sweet things all day if she had her way. She is a great eater but she likes to keep her food separate, not mixed. Rather oddly, she loves eating salads.

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Do you have a favourite cookbook, or do you just wing it?

No. If I’m baking or if something requires exact measurements then I use one of my own recipes and follow that. Jane does use recipes for ideas but I always put my word in and adapt it, much to her annoyance…

One meal for all or separate kids dishes?

Generally one meal for all, unless Jane and I choose to eat later.

Do many people bring children to your flagship restaurant, Marcus?

We do get young families and children in from time to time, but in the other restaurants in the group (Tredwell’s and The Gilbert Scott) we get a lot more as the menus are better suited to them and it is a less formal dining room. That works better – for parents and kids. At Marcus, we see lots of teenagers who are more appreciative of the food we serve as their palates are more developed and they don’t mind sitting for longer.

So should fine dining restaurants be child free?

As a father I would never make any of my restaurants child free. If your children are well behaved, why shouldn’t they be able to join you for a special meal? But as a parent of three children of different ages I am very aware of who can sit in a restaurant for a long period of time and I don’t want to upset other diners with restless children.

Do you eat out as a family or avoid restaurants when off duty?

We eat out all the time. We recently took them all to Chez Bruce and it was great. They were all polite, sat still and ate, what more could you ask for?

What do you think of Britain’s chicken nugget/fish finger kids menu culture?

If it is from the freezer it is plain laziness and that I do not agree with. You can be clever with fish and chips though – it does not have to be battered and deep fried. At Tredwell’s our kids menu is a real hit and we always get great feedback from guests for the hummus, chicken wings, fish and vegetables. Kids like simplicity so stick to that, and make it fresh.

Top three places to eat out with the children?

Gail’s Bakery on the Northcote Road, Byron Burger is always a winner and, dare I say it, Pizza Express.

Marcus Wareing is one of Britain’s most acclaimed chefs. Gathering Michelin stars since the age of 25, he has been involved in the creation of many of London’s most celebrated restaurants including Michelin starred Marcus at The Berkeley Hotel, The Gilbert Scott, an elegant British restaurant in St Pancras and Tredwell’s, a vibrant West-End eatery in Covent Garden. Marcus is also a judge on Master Chef: The Professionals.