Anybody who’s watched BBC2’s The Great British Menu will know that double Michelin-starred chef Marcus Wareing comes with a health warning. He has a ferocious reputation (after an acrimonious split with Gordon Ramsay he admitted he loves “a good fight”) and is notoriously difficult to please. On TV he has caused fellow chef Johnnie Mountain to storm out of the GBM kitchen and once reduced an amateur MasterChef contestant to tears with his harsh critique.
So as Marcus replaces that popular Gallic charmer Michel Roux Jr on the new series of MasterChef: The Professionals, what can we expect? Contestants wilting under his searing gaze? Burning faces from his lengthy grilling?
Far from it.
In the first heat he cruises around the brand new MasterChef kitchen, all smiles and cheery, encouraging words to the young hopefuls. There’s even the occasional bit of banter between him and Gregg Wallace. And his relationship with Monica Galetti is based on mutual respect. He treats her as his equal whereas you get the sneaking feeling he thinks Gregg is there more as comic relief.
However, when a dish is put in front of him Marcus is deadly serious. You cannot get anything past this man. If your food doesn’t cut the mustard, he tells you. And he doesn’t mince his words.
“That’s sloppy. That’s one of the most irritating things I find in the kitchen: a chef who can’t be bothered to do such a basic thing,” he berates one chef who leaves the bloodline on his fish. Overall, though, he says the standard of cooking in the MasterChef kitchen is “very good” and sometimes is taken “to a whole new level”. Occasionally he gets very excited indeed.
Stepping into the shoes of the gentlemanly Michel is a tall order but Marcus is a fantastic addition to the show: fierce, firm but very fair.
MasterChef: The Professionals returns on Tuesday 4th November at 8pm on BBC2