With his new show that will be aired at the end of February 2022, the Michelin-starred chef goes across the nation to learn about the art of planting, keeping cattle, and cultivating crops, and to transform his East Sussex farm,
For the first time in his career, Marcus has ventured into the realm of farming as he seeks to uncover the greatest products available in various regions of the nation, including Lancashire’s prime lamb.
Born in Southport while it was a part of Lancashire, Marcus tells the Post how his passion for cooking was sparked by growing up around food.
A MasterChef and Great British Menu alum, Marcus says that his father, who was a food merchant in Southport, motivated him to follow in his footsteps. “I grew up in the northwest, Southport, and what inspired me to be a chef was basically spending time with my father, who was a merchant in fruit and veg, and my brother, a chef, so cheffing was the job that always interested me the most.
“I enjoyed working in Southport and the catering college that I went to, and then that catering college got me into London, so I was very lucky to get the opening door from that Southport college into the Savoy and that’s what changed my life.”
Marcus has been associated with some of the best restaurants in London, including Le Gavroche and the Savoy Hotel, as well as in Amsterdam, New York, and Paris. He has also owned and operated several restaurants.
In the 8th episode of the new series, Marcus goes to Lancashire “where it all started” in order to gather sheep for his smallholding, naming lamb as his favorite meat.
During a conversation about his return, Marcus explained that “I wanted to find a type of sheep that was a little bit different, with great fat content, great flavor, and the Lonk sheep was one of them, and because I lived in Lancashire as a boy, going around all the different farms with my father or his workmen, I used to see sheep everywhere, so it seemed like the right place and the most obvious place to go there to for that particular ingredient.”
Brothers James and Robert Whitwell own a farm near Pendleton that raises Lonk sheep, a unique species known for its succulent flesh.
Marcus said: “The two brothers reminded me of my dad and his brother, two guys running the family business that was passed down from their father, and it’s two husbands and wives, kids everywhere, living on the job, living for the job, and it’s all they know, they were just very humble, incredibly hard-working people.
“It was a pleasure to go back because it’s a countryside that I recognize, and meeting the people, the families, and the farmers, it’s a reminder of where you’re from, and I thoroughly enjoyed that. I’ve never forgotten where I’m from, and all my family still live back in the northwest, so it’s still very close to my heart. Even though I don’t go back much, I still know where I’m from, and I love that. I enjoy discovering new things too but I think in a ten-part series, it’s always important that in at least one of them you can visit where you’re from.”
Lamb from the Lonk sheep, which is native to the counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire, has a distinct flavor and reduced fat content since it is bred for a longer period of time.
There are Lonk sheep in Marcus’ Little Sussex holding, and he claims that it gives him “pleasure” to know that he can carry some Lancashire back with him and that the best kind of sheep originates from his home county.
Marcus said: “It could have been from Mars, it doesn’t have to be from Lancashire, I just believe that some of the best lamb is from Lancashire and there’s not a lot of produce that comes out of Lancashire but Lamb is one of those obvious things, so for me, it was an easy choice.
“But there’s definitely more I want to do. I’ll be returning to Lancashire to see what other things are there because I left as a teenager, so I don’t really know where I’m from.”
Along with a trip to Lancashire, Marcus’s new programme travels him all across the nation, teaching him and the audience about the processes involved in food production and how to extract the most flavor out of every item they encounter along the way.
The show is a learning experience for Marcus, who said, “All of this is a learning curve for me, so Lonk sheep are just one product that I had not heard of, but I’m looking for an education, to try to understand how the farming industry works, so I want to highlight that industry across different sectors across the country, but also take away the stigma that cookery is difficult, cookery if very straightforward when you’ve got great ingredients and you’re confident.
“I’m trying to show that in my back garden, when I’m cooking, I’m the same as anyone else. What you see on that programme is me going through a learning journey, and I’m taking the viewer with me, because I want the viewer to be a better cook.
“People will see a different side to what I do, and a different side to me as a person outside of a professional kitchen because I’ve never shown that before, so it’s going to be really interesting to see what people think of me in this whole new world, and this journey is just the beginning of what I want to do. I want to continue this around the country, and even abroad.
“I’ve got no problems with getting hands on, where I’m from, we work incredibly hard, so I want to get stuck in and get cooking, get growing, get farming, and I’ll work with anyone to try and understand how people’s worlds work, and to can expose how hard it is and the importance of buying local wherever we can- it’s not all about Sainsbury’s and Tescos.”
The ten-episode series, which airs on BBC Two at 6:30 pm on Mondays through Fridays, begins on Monday, February 28th.