Marco was born of working-class parents on a bleak council estate in Leeds, and his Italian mother died when he was six years old. Today he has become a star chef of international renown, a controversial media celebrity, a national icon of the 1980s and 1990s, and a multimillionaire entrepreneur - all before the age of 40. How has this staggering rise to fame and fortune been achieved? MPW (as he calls himself and many of his new restaurants) is today widely regarded as the best cook in the country, but his astonishing talents and understanding of food are only part of the explanation. As this fascinating book reveals, there are many sides to this complex man which the massive media coverage he has received over the years have never revealed. Charles Hennessy tells the story with insight: the unpromising early life, his first job as a kitchen porter in Harrogate, the epiphany at the age of 17 when he went to work at the Box Tree restaurant in Ilkley, his arrival in London, learning under the Roux brothers, Pierre Koffmann and Raymond Blanc, and the opening of his own first restaurant, Harvey's from whence his fame and fortune grew.
The first thing I like is the cover photo which is one of the best I've seen of Marco, instead of just the usual brooding pictures you see. It was not an easy book to get hold of either so I was pleased to get a good copy of it. Sadly the book did not really deliver for me.
It was not the subject matter that was the problem as Marco is a fascinating guy to read about. All the chapters that dealt with him, his career, the building of his business empire and his fights with people were all fun to read about. What spoiled the book for me was the author himself. With his background in advertisement copywrite and journalism, he feels the need to show off how clever he is with big fancy words and waffling gushing descriptions of everything, proving that he is much smarter and more cultured than the reader. I hate this style of writing and I have no intention of reading a lot of guff that I need a dictionary to translate.
When the author gets to the part of Marco's story where he is opening his business, we are treated to endless descriptions of the dining area, the VIPs and the atmosphere, and page after page of totally incomprehensible reviews from puffed up critics who seem to be competing with each other to ass kiss in the most revolting manner. When I started reading the reviews, they were written in a manner designed not to be understood by the ordinary plebs and it left you wondering what the hell these people were trying to say about the food! In one chapter, a third of it was filled with all these reviews which are dull and boring. I don't care what the critics said about a meal! I want to read the Marco story, not the inflated egotistical rants of food critics!
The other thing that drove me nuts was breaking up the narrative to insert a boxed 'thought' where a friend or rival would give his thoughts on Marco. Why can't these things be at the start and end of chapters instead of being right in the middle of the story you are trying to follow? Really annoying!
Overall, if you skip out all the waffle, there are some good bits but the waffle just overpowers the rest of it and I didn't enjoy the reading experience much.