Marcus Wareing: "MasterChef is a programme for everybody"

The Staff Canteen

MasterChef: The Professionals judge and Michelin-starred chef, Marcus Wareing, is one of hospitality’s most well-known names, and knows what makes a great chef, as well as how restaurant culture in the UK has changed in recent years.

As part of The Staff Canteen podcast, Grilled, with host Anton Piotrowski and Marcus Restaurant’s head chef Craig JohnstonMarcus Wareing spoke about Marcus Restaurant, MasterChef: The Professionals, and what can be done to support chefs in the industry.

Food Trends and Attracting Staff

Commenting on food trends, Anton explained that chefs and businesses should be looking for inspiration in the UK instead of abroad.

“We are an island of absolute amazing power, our ingredients are absolutely impeccable, and we don’t need to be searching further afield. We need to be looking in our home lands now,” Anton explained.

Highlighting key issues, Anton added: “There’s no money around, restaurants are [finding it] very hard to make money, staffing costs a lot of money, I think for me that’s the most important thing.”

On the subject of attracting more professionals into hospitality, Marcus, Craig, and Anton, explained that more needs to be done from the government to strengthen the industry, whilst firms can invest more into staff.

Sharing his thoughts, Anton said: “Drop VAT to 9% in the industry where you can pay your staff a viable wage where they can increase every year on a viable amount. The government should fund hospitality in some way, and actually have a Minister for Hospitality in some way as well.”

“One thing we try to do is invest in people and always try to have a career path for someone,” explained Craig.

He added: “We do a lot of management training with external companies to train managers in different aspects of people management, mental health etc. For other members of the team, if the pastry chefs want to go on a chocolate course then we’re more then happy for them to go on that course, if it’s going to benefit them.”

“Looking at staff benefits and what we can do there, is there a perk that we can give to someone, vouchers etc,” Craig said.

Marcus argued: “I don’t believe that the government is the solution. I agree with what Craig has done and said, and that is he has worked internally to create a fantastic atmosphere in his own world and not worry too much about the bigger picture.”

Kate Nicholls, Head of UKHospitality, there’s the person who should be banging the drum and there’s the person who should be going out there getting us a minister. That’s our industry representative,” he added.

MasterChef: The Professionals

With Marcus, Anton, Craig all being involved in MasterChef: The Professionals – with Anton and Craig winning their separate seasons – the three chefs looked at why the programme has remained so popular and important for chef and the industry.

Sharing his thoughts on MasterChef: The Professionals, it’s popularity and how it compares with other programmes, Marcus said: “It’s a format that has stood the test of time. It’s evolution over the years has been really small and it captured the nation when Lloyd Grossman did it in the 80s, and it keep evolving in to the modern world.”

“For MasterChef to stay current it needs to evolve and keep moving forwards,” he said.

Marcus added: “What makes it of course is the people who join and put themselves in the forefront of the competition.”

Comparing MasterChef: The Professionals and Great British Menu, Marcus explained that MasterChef is a much bigger programme as it appeals to a larger cross-section of chefs.

Marcus explained: “MasterChef is a programme for everybody, whereas Great British Menu is programme for the elite. MasterChef is a competition for all chefs across all sectors to come and be part of something, and I think that’s it’s so popular because it reaches the masses rather than the few.”

“When you look at the viewing figures on the two shows that I’ve just mentioned, they’re worlds apart on the basis that one is tried and tested has been going on for more than thirty-odd years, and Great British Menu, which is an outstanding TV show, which is for the new superstars of the industry just about to launch themselves,” Marcus said.

He added: “It’s really nice that one sits on top of the other one.”

Marcus Restaurant

Following news earlier this year that Marcus Wareing’s Marcus Restaurant would close; Marcus, Craig, and Anton reflected on the restaurant’s legacy and innovation over the years.

Craig said: “I’m very grateful being part of this journey and just being here a proportion of Marcus’ twenty years at The Berkeley, and it has been amazing a highlight of my career, these past 6 years.”

“The main thing is for it to end on a high. The team that I’m working with now in the six years has been the best team that I have ever worked for,” Craig added.

Commenting on closing his restaurant, Marcus said: “It is really weird to close a restaurant with the best team that I think I have ever worked with, and that’s no disrespect to any other team.”

“This team is the strongest, it’s the team that seems to just gel. I think it’s great management from the kitchen, fantastic restaurant manager, fantastic social media marketing manager, great operational director, and no Marcus involved and that’s why it works,” Marcus added.

Talking about future projects, Marcus said: “Over the years, TV has pulled me more and more away, and the place is working better and better and better.”

He added: “The TV and the work that I’ve got coming and the work in new opportunities in other businesses, are huge. We were offered an opportunity to continue at The Berkeley, I sat down with my management and put down future opportunities in front of them, and existing opportunities, and I just think for me if we’re all going to be able to get on and continue doing the same old, I personally want to do new and other things.”

Advice for Chefs

During the podcast, all three chefs were quick to advise that chefs remain committed to their personal goals and not to compare themselves with more seasoned professionals in the industry.

On the subject of chefs comparing themselves to others, Marcus said: “It’s easy to be jealous of people more successful; people that have wealth, happiness of other things.”

Describing this in more context, Marcus said: “You look up to people that have created extraordinary things, and for me it’s always people outside of my industry. Sometimes you have to be very careful that you don’t lose focus on your own personal goals.”

“If you allow yourself to be a jealous person you end up dwelling on that jealousy and you focus on more of the jealousy aspect of something instead of the things that you want to do,” he explained.

Marcus added: “I would rather be inspired by others.”

In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th December 2023

Marcus Wareing: "MasterChef is a programme for everybody"