The week before my meeting with Marco and Geraldine I’m at home, re-watching Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown on Netflix. This is something I do quite regularly, even more so in the wake of Bordain’s passing. It’s the London episode, where Bourdain visits a post-Brexit Britain where he meets a few famous faces along the way and on screen, I see two of my culinary heroes sit down and break bread.
Years ago when I was studying Culinary Arts in Dublin Institute of Technology, we spoke about the chefs we admired in much of our classes, recalling stories of these culinary heavyweights.
Two names always stood out to me… Bourdain and Pierre White. Why was this so? To put it plainly; I thought they were cool! Bourdain was a wild creature, writing about his drug-fueled days in Kitchen Confidential and Pierre White gained three Michelin stars at an astonishingly young age, only to later retire and give them back. He gave back his stars! To me, that was brilliant.
Fast forward a week on from my Netflix binge and that’s where our interview begins. I won’t lie and say I’m not a little star struck. Sitting before me is Marco Pierre White. He has literally jumped from my laptop screen to the seat beside me, offering me a glass of wine.
Sitting beside him is Geraldine Fitzpatrick, a founding director of the Fitzers Restaurant Group. Geraldine is Marco’s business partner but as our conversation goes on, it becomes clear to me that this relationship is built on more than just business.
Geraldine knows the hospitality industry like the back of her hand. Her father Frank ran Fitzpatrick’s Greengrocer and Fruiterer on Camden Street, in which Geraldine and her siblings worked.
It was from these humble beginnings Geraldine and her brothers would go on to create the Fitzers group, collaborating to become a household name. They have run a restaurant on Dawson Street for nearly thirty years, ten of those have been a joint venture with MPW. I sit down with the charming pair to gain a little insight into what makes their partnership so successful.
I’m instantly drawn to Marco. For a man whose reputation precedes him, whom some (wrongly, I know now), may think he’s stern and sharp-tongued. My moment of fangirling fades away when I see the real Marco, a man who he describes as “romantic idealist”.
He is, at heart, a working-class boy. Although Marco has mingled with the elite, enjoyed fine dining and travelled the world he is laid back without any airs or graces.
Sitting on the table is his mobile phone, which is very telling of his character. You’ll find no smartphone in Marco’s pocket, only a phone so retro I’m not even sure if they sell that make anymore. He gives off a vibe that is easy going, “I can’t text” he exclaims. It seems the chef doesn’t care for the materialistic things in life.
So how did this partnership come about? “By default”, they tell me. Meeting through a mutual friend they instantly clicked and “just decided to do what we did” says Geraldine.
It is a relationship “born out of friendship and love” as Marco puts it, to which Geraldine wholeheartedly agrees “absolutely”.
When I ask Geraldine what it’s like working with Marco she describes it as “the best experience” and perhaps contrary to his reputation she says that “the thing is, he’s very fair”. It’s evident that the two are genuinely fond of each other and have managed to mix business with pleasure as Geraldine admits, “it’s hard to get that relationship with someone you’re in business with but we have it”.
We’re a family and Marco is like one of our family”
To run a successful business is a great achievement, but to do so for 10 years and with people you have a great bond with is no easy feat.
“We’ve had no issues over the 10 years we’ve been in business together”, Geraldine tells me. It’s clear that this is more than just a business relationship, the Pierre White and Fitzpatrick venture is one based on respect and admiration.
Marco says, “the only way I can describe it is like the most delicious love affair”. A bold statement, which is telling of Marco’s charming personality.
As always, the Dublin dining scene is evolving and one place to see this in action in Dawson Street, with Geraldine exclaiming “the roadside has completely changed”. With the recent opening of The Ivy, stalwarts like Fire, the Michelin star worthy Amuse and the upcoming reopening of Café en Seine, the street is becoming a food lover’s playground. As Marco confirms, “it’s become the main dining street in Dublin, it’s very European”
As the years went on major changes happened on Dawson Street, the construction of the Luas seemed to last forever and surely this affected businesses. Geraldine recalls “the four years of building the tram line was horrific but we were able to survive that, we’ve been on this street for 30 years”.
we’ve all grown old in this street”
The respect they have for each other is made even clearer when Marco exclaims: “Longevity is born out of integrity and that’s why the Fitzpatrick’s have been here for 30 years, because of their integrity, honesty and kindness”.
When I ask them both whether the increased competition on the street is cause for concern, Marco confidently tells me it is not: “It creates interest and the whole key of anything in life is to create interest where there is none. The footfall is growing which is always welcomed by businesses.”
The winning combination of Pierre White & Fitzpatrick is working well it seems. Marco confidently tells me that he “chose to jump into bed” with the Fitzpatrick’s and that he wouldn’t choose anyone else to work with. The man is fiercely loyal, and it shows.
I, of course, have to ask Marco about his role on TV3’s The Restaurant. Is his reputation as fiery as we may think? “Most of my reputation is a product of exaggeration and ignorance,” Marco tells me. Geraldine says he’s “very fun” on the hit TV show The Restaurant. And when Rachel Allen’s name comes up, Geraldine smiles and says, “the chemistry is great with the two of them”.
I love working with Rachel Allen, it’s like having a delicious dinner date”
Marco is quick to praise Rachel Allen’s appearance for the growing viewing figures, his modesty showing. To which Geraldine says he puts so much work into and “shows him in a different light”. His modesty is showing here as he continues on saying Rachel is “a great girl” whom he is missing dearly. Luckily for Marco, he won’t have to wait long to see her again, as filming for the show starts in January in MPW Donnybrook.
I ask Marco is there any celebrity that he would like to see walk out of the kitchen, and without hesitation he says,
for me it’s all about what’s on the plate, not who’s in the kitchen”
Soon my interview feels less like an interview and more like a friendly exciting chat and I tell him about a favourite episode of Bourdain’s show where he visits my favourite pub in Dublin, The Gravediggers. This piques Marco’s interest and he declares, “I’d like to go to the gravediggers”.
I volunteer to show him around my neck of the woods and he tells me “you’re a good bird” and “you’ve beautiful Julie Christie eyes”. While I have no idea who Ms. Christie is, I can’t help but blush as one of my culinary idols works his magic on me.
Geraldine tells me he will be back in Dublin in January to pick up filming for The Restaurant and numbers are exchanged with promises to meet up in The Gravediggers for what I describe as “the best pint of Guinness in Dublin”.
When I’ve finished with my questions, Marco turns the questions around on me. Looking intently into my eyes, he says I am to answer a yes or no question… “Can I go for a cigarette?” to which I, of course, say yes, but I get a feeling that if I refused, Marco would be polite and refrain.
He is charismatic and I am well and truly under his spell. I’ll say it now, I by no means think of myself like Julie Christie, but If Marco Pierre White wants to think that, who am I to disagree!
When he returns from his quick ciggy break he sits down at our table. While Geraldine and I are chatting about holidays he begins to scribble on the tablecloth. I’ve lost him, he’s bored with me and I’m certain this interview is going south fast.
I hear him tearing the tablecloth, which he then hands to me. Marco Pierre White has drawn my “Julie Christe” eyes and has succeeded in charming me beyond belief. As the conversation goes on we learn we’re both Sagittarius signs with fiery personalities and both come from humble beginnings. Perhaps this is why I feel comfortable and at ease with such an accomplished gent. Both he and Geraldine are charismatic and we spend the afternoon laughing and joking.
“Humour is born out of blue collar, not white collar.”
When I stand up to leave I hold my hand out before Marco, expecting his to meet mine in a firm handshake. However, the chef throws his arms wide and envelopes me in a hug and places three very continental kisses on my cheeks.
Right behind him, Geraldine is there, ready to do the same! Sometimes success can go to your head, but that certainly isn’t the case here, I couldn’t have wished for two nicer or more down to earth people to spend my time with.
They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes because they’ll only disappoint you… Maybe they will, or perhaps they might just surprise you?
Sinéad is a Culinary Arts graduate from DIT. She is a passionate cook with a love of fine dining and modern Irish cuisine. A gin lover, Sinéad loves seeking out cosy new pubs and sampling a variety of craft beers.
If she’s not dining out, Sinéad loves travelling the world exploring new cultures and cuisines. Working with TheTaste allows Sinéad to fully immerse herself in the Irish food industry.