I read this book back to back with Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. I am a fan of Anthony Bourdain, and with his book I knew what I was getting into. Marco, however, I hadn't heard of before, but I came out of Kitchen Confidential hungry for more. Bourdain had nodded to White in his book, and Amazon had good reviews of The Devil in the Kitchen, so I rolled the dice and went in blind.
I was excited to read another story of a interesting chef, specifically in what I presumed would be a fresh context -- compared to Bourdain's and my own younger-still era, maybe Marco's story would give me some clue as to what it'd be like to do things in England however long ago. Maybe his story would be a little more polished than Bourdain's harsh past and haphazard career. Maybe Marco's intentions would yield an interesting story.
This book reads like one big brag, peppered with one sided anecdotes of immature, shallow conflicts that you get the sense Marco is still bitter over. If you think someone's an asshole they might be, but if you think everyone's an asshole then you might be.
At some point in the book Marco describes himself as petulant. I think he meant it as a hedge of humility, but the entire book reads like it was written by some frat boy all in one go, then chucked at an editor to clean up the mess.
There's no context, no depth; just him describing these shallow fights and showboating in ways that read back like big-fish bar stories. "You shoulda seen the guy, he was huge; and I really gave it to him!" Sips another bit of a light beer and turns to the next stranger willing to listen, wide eyed and ignorant to how he's being received.
Ok. Where's the setup? Where's the believable balance? You won every fight? You were an ungrateful asshole and everyone deserved it ? You chinned every enemy, and charmed every woman? All you did was work really hard and eventually got those three stars? Did you know he wanted three Michelin stars? If not, you'll be reminded every chapter.
The thing is, Marco's accolades and his tenures and his proteges are indisputably there to look at. He actually did get those three stars. There's a picture of him holding the bar-tale fish, sort of speak. Well then why does this story chop by with little boyish bouts of rage and woo? You get the sense that there is more of a story there, and if you've read Bourdain's book -- especially recently before or after reading Marco's -- you know that those details can be enlightening and interesting!
Enough bitching. It's not all bad. You do get somewhat of a sense of what cooking in the 70s and 80s England was like. And the little out-quote tips inlined in the story are delicious, informing, and practical. When Marco is talking about cooking, in detail, in specific, it's worth paying attention to. I just wish the crap about elite friends and celebrities and fights was either richer or cut. The in-between is frustrating.