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Marco main

Marco Pierre White on his love of curries, 'magical Norway' and the P&O Cookery Club

Author: Harriet Mallinson

Published on:

Marco Pierre White became the new patron of The Cookery Club on P&O Cruises flagship Britannia back in 2018 and has since gone on to join new vessel Iona.

As one of P&O Cruises’ Food Heroes, legendary chef Marco is a big presence on board.

Here he talks to Vicky Mayer about his cruising highlights – and what he’s most looking forward to about rejoining Britannia and new ship Iona

When did you first start cruising?

I first cruised in the Mediterranean about 15 years ago. Then, when P&O Cruises launched Ventura in 2008, I took my family on holiday. On that trip I realised the secret of cruising and why it’s so popular – it’s fantastic to have the best of everything, all in one place, with a new view every morning.

My children adored it because they had freedom on board, but I knew they were being supervised by the staff in the children’s club so I had peace of mind – and that’s what every parent wants when they’re away from home.

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What are your best cruising memories?

Every cruise holiday has given me special memories and has enabled me to try so many local food specialities – from oysters in Vigo and paella in Valencia to jerk chicken and the best barbecued pork on the roadside in St Lucia, not forgetting incredible king crab in Bergen. Sitting on deck after service in Norway at nearly midnight, when the light is still bright and the sun is setting over the sea, was also a magical experience.

Ashore, I like to find little cafes or coffee shops off the beaten track where I can just watch the world go by and see where the locals shop and eat. Cruising allows you to do that.

Who is your ideal cruise companion?

I love being with my daughter Mirabelle and introducing her to new places, so it would have to be her. She is great company and a very savvy traveller.

Marco table
As one of P&O Cruises’ Food Heroes, legendary chef Marco is a big presence on board.

Do you get recognised on board when you cruise?

Yes, and I love meeting guests. I am very interested in people’s stories and find it fascinating to chat. Pre-Covid, I often greeted everyone as they went into dinner on the gala evenings, where there is such a sense of occasion and excitement. But then I have to dash back to the galley to make sure dinner is beautifully cooked and presented, as it’s such a special evening.

What would you tell someone who has never cruised before?

Go for it! There is no other holiday that is so relaxing and where you’ll find such variety and attention to detail. Many hotels offer fine dining and a spa but there is nothing like the service on a P&O Cruises ship. Add to that the shimmering sea and the joy of opening the curtains somewhere different every morning, and you’ve got the perfect holiday package.

Marco ship
Marco Pierre White: "You’ve got the perfect holiday package" with a cruise
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Can you describe a typical day on board when you’re working?

It’s busy but very fulfilling. I start early in the morning by preparing the stocks and sauces I need for the day ahead. Then on Britannia, I work with the chefs at the Cookery Club to prepare the ingredients for the classes and finalise the details for the evening menu. My onboard cookery classes attract guests of all different levels of experience – from complete novices to expert chefs.

I always try to ensure that every person in the class produces the best dish they possibly can, and I find it very satisfying to share little tips of the trade that finish a dish to perfection.

Finally, we all gather around the chef’s table to taste and chat. Many of the guests who come to my classes stay in touch after the cruise, and there is one lady who tells me she makes my risotto every Friday evening.

Off duty, what do you like to eat on a cruise?

I adore the curries at Sindhu, the onboard Indian restaurant. I have travelled widely through India and I can honestly say that the fragrant flavours aboard P&O Cruises’ ships outshine anything I’ve ever had.

Marco cooking
Marco Pierre White: "I always try to ensure that every person in the class produces the best dish they possibly can"
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What will you be doing aboard P&O’s new ship Iona?

P&O have developed a new concept for Iona, called The Chef’s Table, which will take place on gala celebration nights. I have created many elements of this special menu which also features wine recommendations by Olly Smith.

Guests at The Chef’s Table will be able to order gazpacho soup, incorporating P&O Cruises’ Marabelle gin distilled on board; fillet of turbot with a Viennoise crust; New England lobster mornay and classic beef Wellington. And for pudding, just two of the delicious choices available are chocolate tonka bean teardrop, and biscuit glacé made with hazelnut parfait, raspberry coulis and almond tuile.

Where are you planning on cruising first when the Covid crisis is over?

Anywhere! I’ve been very happy at home for the past year – I love building things, so having time to do that with no commitments has been a luxury. But the lack of business and the closure of hospitality has hit everyone so devastatingly hard, and I can’t wait to travel on the much-anticipated Iona and open my Cookery Club again on Britannia.

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