At the Deira Fish Market with Marco Pierre White

On a tour of Deira Fish Market with the celeb chef

Marco Pierre White said the fishermen had impressive methods of displaying the catch.
Marco Pierre White said the fishermen had impressive methods of displaying the catch.

When Caterer Middle East was offered the opportunity to go to the Deira fish market with celeb chef Marco Pierre White, we jumped at the opportunity.

As we arrived at 7:30am only slightly bleary-eyed, the fish market was in full swing — the stench of the sea, the glistening pavements, overflowing crates of seafood, and the busy fishermen were aplenty.

White was found in the thick of it — walking amidst the rows and rows of shining fish, looking over nearly every stand carefully, peering above his glasses at what was on offer. He says: “There’s a lot more people than I expected, and there’s a lot more fish than I expected. It’s amazing, really. You’ve got tuna, you’ve got marlin, and then you’ve got a man who just sells fish heads.”

He is all praise for the market’s volumes, and adds: “What also really impressed me was the way they present it, or the way they stack it ... because it’s not in boxes. You see they lay them out, then stack them up; it’s quite beautiful. That’s layers and layers and layers, rather than just thrown in. So they take great pride in what they do.”

He continues: “It seems like there are a lot of individuals who come to buy, rather than restaurateurs.” He says that in other fish markets around the world, it tends to be dealers buying the wares on offer.

The topic of sustainable fishing comes up, an issue which Caterer champions.

While the chef says he is obsessed with fish, he adds: “It’s not for me to tell fishermen how to fish. It’s a very sensitive issue.” He pauses and says: “I’m a fan of fish farming.”

White explains: “One, they’ve gotten really good at doing it [in England]. Two, it takes pressure off the wild stock. Three, it makes fish more affordable for the average man or woman. So I’m very pro-fish farming, as long as it’s done correctly. I think that’s the future.”

White was in the UAE for a whirlwind seven-day tour, where he visited, among other places, the fish market, the spice market, and of course, all his restaurants in the country.

Does he have any favourite restaurants in the UAE, perhaps other than his own? He sips on a hot coffee brought to him and immediately replies: “Whenever I’m in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, I just tend to go to the restaurants I’m associated with. I don’t think it’s right eating in other people’s restaurants.”

At this point, he compliments head chef of the Marco Pierre White Grill at the Conrad Dubai — Genny Lorenza.

“I had a very good dinner there last night, a really good dinner. It’s very nice and very simple. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever done it: where I’ve sat and watched the chefs work while I’m at my table, even though I’ve been to restaurants before where they’ve got an open kitchen.”

He adds: “Genny is very good, she’s got a nice touch, and she’s very conscientious. Last night the steak I had was nicely cooked; I don’t remember the last time I had a steak so good.”

White, who denies having any new outlets planned for the region at present, moves on to the topic of TV chefs and says he has just finished filming the show, Masterchef: The Professionals, in Australia.

He points out: “A lot of chefs who are on TV on a regular basis, they are not necessarily the finest of chefs. The finest of chefs tend to be in their kitchen. Chefs who tend to be on TV are on TV because they have great personalities, not because they’re necessarily great cooks.

“I came to TV very late in my life, I’d retired and therefore I could do TV. You can’t do both really, you can’t be a three-starred chef and do TV properly because when you are at that three-starred level then you have to be in the kitchen.”

White reveals he has been offered three shows this year but hasn’t committed to any yet.

Saying he’s more comfortable behind the stove than in front of a camera, he says some TV shows are extremely time consuming, which is why he prefers reality TV which can be filmed quickly.

White, who does seem to have a packed schedule, adds: “It’s like today ... for me today is a treat coming to the fish market, it’s a treat.”

He says: “Dubai and Abu Dhabi ... they never cease to amaze you. That’s the amazing thing; your eyes are widened every time.”

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