Chef Marcus Ware sat down with us to chat about his cooking background, what hospitality means to him and some of his favorite kitchen tools. Chef Marcus is the Executive Chef at Aureole in New York City, Charlie Palmer’s Michelin starred fine dining restaurant.
How did you get into cooking initially?
I started cooking when I was about 14 years old. It was a weekend job cleaning in the cellars of a pub. One day the dishwasher didn’t show up and they asked me if I could wash the dishes at night. So I washed the dishes at night and got sort of introduced to the kitchen. One night led to two nights led to three nights and I sort of started coming back on my own time. Just being fascinated with what was going on in the kitchen. The chef took me under his wing and that was it. So, as soon as I could leave school at 16, I did and started an apprenticeship at the Savoy Hotel in London. That was my baptism by fire, sort of in at the deep end.
How would you describe your culinary style and how has it evolved over the years?
I think it’s changed a lot. I’ve been exposed to a lot of different cultural influences in NY that I wasn’t in England. I started with a very solid French culinary background which is where my skill set and base were and still is. I’ve definitely absorbed a lot of Asian influences from being in New York. A lot of Japanese influences and influences using Asian ingredients. My food, I think, has become more American. America is a country I see as being very much multicultural with a lot of influences from different cultures. My food definitely reflects that.
Do you have a mentor or chef who particularly inspired you?
I think a lot of the chefs who I worked for inspired me to work harder, to make myself better. If I had to pick one, it’s very hard. Philip Howard is one of the chefs I worked for who was really an amazing chef and I learned a lot from. And, as far as people who I really look up in the industry I would say Thomas Keller. Just being at the top of your industry for a long long period of time is something which is very hard to do. Consistency is the hardest thing in this industry and to consistently be one of the best is a great achievement.
What is the most important ingredient for success in professional cooking?
Self discipline. Self discipline not just in what you do, but in every single aspect and how you work….cleanliness, being disciplined in being clean and organized, being disciplined when you make something and it doesn’t quite turn out right. Being disciplined enough to say no, as much hard work and effort you put into it, you have to say no it’s not good enough and start again. I think self discipline on a lot of different levels and a lot of different aspects is the most important thing.
What’s your philosophy towards hospitality?
When you work in the industry for a long time, some of it gets lost as far as how much of it you are doing it for your customers. At the end of the day, you really have to treat customers like they are a guest in your own home. If you do treat them that way, then most of the time you’ll be successful. I think that some of that does get lost. It’s hard to maintain it.
What’s one kitchen tool you couldn’t live without?
A sharp knife. If you don’t have a sharp knife, you can’t do anything.
What are your thoughts on Japanese knives?
I started out my career very French influenced using Sabatier and Henckels. Halfway through my career, I was introduced to Japanese knives. Now all of my knives are Japanese knives. They have a certain feel to them, and they cut a certain way. I’m definitely a big fan of Japanese knives; that’s pretty much all I use now.
Do you have a particular knife in your knife kit that you tend to go to more often than others?
I love using my Nenox knives. They are by far the most expensive knives I have, but they are the nicest to use. And the Glestain as well. I’ve had a Glestain chef’s knife which I bought 7 years ago. I still have the same one and it’s standing up well. It’ s passed the test of time.
What is an ingredient you started using recently or one that really excites you?
I’ve been exposed to more Asian influences and Asian ingredients and I’m still exploring some of them. I think one of my favorites is yuzu. I love using that. It’s very subtle and it’s very very mellow but it takes using it in the right applications. It’s become a very popular citrus, but I’d say it was one of my favorite ingredients. I’ve also become a very big fan of some of the Japanese seafood…uni for example. We get it from two or three different places. Sometimes we get it from the West Coast, sometimes we get it from Japan. I buy fresh uni which is untreated and just taken out of the shell. The saltiness of the sea water keeps it nice and fresh and you can really tell the difference when you eat it.