Marco Pierre White: ‘Ireland is one of the great countries of the world’

Restaurateurs Marco Pierre White and Geraldine Fitzpatrick in conversation

Geraldine Fitzpatrick and Marco Pierre White

Geraldine Fitzpatrick and Marco Pierre White

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What is your death row meal?
Geraldine: My nerves would get to me. So maybe an omelette and a prayer.

Marco: The truth is, at that stage in the game it’s not really that important is it? What’s important is the people you sit with and the people you say goodbye to. I think I’d prefer to die on an empty stomach.

When did you last cry?
Marco: I cry all the time. I love crying. It’s a wonderful release. It’s like a pressure valve. Tears are the most wonderful painkiller known to man. When in pain, chop onions.

Geraldine: I cry if I fight with my kids or something. This sounds a bit superficial, but I cried the day David Bowie died. I couldn’t stop crying the whole day. I couldn’t talk to anybody.

Marco: Are you going to cry now?

Geraldine: When I think about him I do.

Is there any artist you feel particularly connected to right now?
Marco: I think Ridley Scott is a genius. I like Robert Plant.

Geraldine: He was fantastic here in concert.

Marco: He’s a proper rocker. There are lots of technicians in this world. There’s lots of people who can write. But how many artists are there? Very few. What we’re talking about is artists. Ridley Scott is an artist. Robert Plant is an artist. Bowie was an artist. AA Gill was an artist. Oscar Wilde was an artist. There are lots of ballerinas who are technical, very few who are artists. I have great admiration for artists. I respect people who are technical, but I don’t admire them.

Geraldine: I think Cillian Murphy is superb. He’s just way out there. But he’s also understated and cool. Nick Cave I love.

Marco: Fassbender is a genius. Russell Crowe is exceptional.

What subject do you wish you studied more in school?
Marco: French.

Geraldine: I’m the same. I speak Spanish, but the thing that helped me most in my life was having another language.

Marco: I just have to speak in a French accent instead.

Geraldine: I’d love to speak French. It’s the nicest language.

Marco: It is very nice. It’s quite romantic.

Geraldine: At least you’ve got a French name.

What’s your favourite item of clothing?
Marco: I love wellington boots. When I’m in hot places, I miss them. They’re fabulous things.

Geraldine: You wear a lot of tweed as well.

Marco: I wear leather-lined green wellies with long zips.

Geraldine: My favourite things are my trainers because I walk so much. My daughters bought me another pair for Christmas. So, Adidas trainers.

Is there any particular motto or mantra you rely on?
Geraldine: I try to stay in the moment. I do yoga and TM and stuff, and I try to bring myself back to living in the moment.

Marco: “Worse things have happened to me.”

Favourite destination to visit?
Marco: I like visiting Ireland because I like the weather. I don’t like the sun, because I’m a Yorkshire boy, you see. We like wind and rain, cold, snow, damp, frost, mist. I can’t cope with the sun every day. I like damp weather and anywhere that’s green.

Geraldine: Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff stuff.

Marco: The moors. Dry stone walls, sheep, dark pubs with low ceilings, pints. That’s what I like. I like the winter when the evenings come in early.

Geraldine: You love the winter. When you come here and the weather is so bad you say ‘I love this weather’. I’ve only been once but I loved Havana. Great character, big boulevards, it’s built in that colonial style of Cádiz. I like the changing skies of Ireland as well.

Marco: Ireland is one of the great countries of the world.

What is the most expensive thing you own apart from a house or a car?
Marco: I own zero. [Takes out a flip phone.] Look at this thing. I’m not materialistic. The more you have, the more responsibility you have, and I don’t like responsibility.

Geraldine: I don’t own much, I’m happy with what I have.

Marco: What about those gold bars under your bed.

Geraldine: Ha! I have a home, restaurants, that’s it. I’ve no desire to have riches or anything like that.

What word do you most overuse?
Geraldine: “Em.”

Marco: “Good morning”, “goodnight”, “can I get you a drink?” – being a restauranteur.

What is the worst advice you’ve ever received?
Marco: I think we give ourselves the worst advice. We can’t blame others for our mistakes.

Geraldine: When I wanted to leave Ireland when I was 16, I remember going to Spain and coming back and thinking ‘I’m not staying here’. My parents were devastated and they got a priest in to talk to me. He said to me ‘you’re making a huge mistake by leaving Ireland now.’ But it was the best thing I ever did.

Who is the first person you call when something brilliant happens?
Geraldine: My daughters.

Marco: Nobody. I like keeping things close.

What do you think is your greatest accomplishment?

Marco: Surviving.

Geraldine: For me it’s having the girls, two daughters, the company we started out in 1979 and the fact that it has survived. We went into business with you, which was the best thing we ever did. I look back on it all and think: we’re still here, after all those years.

Marco: Yes. Surviving.

Geraldine: Surviving and doing our best.

Geraldine Fitzpatrick is a co-director of the Fitzers Restaurant Group. Marco Pierre White is a chef and restauranteur who features in TV3’s The Restaurant which is filmed at Marco Pierre White Courtyard Bar and Grill in Donnybrook, Dublin.

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