Chef Marco J Morana is an extremely passionate culinary professional with over 30 years of experience in the world of culinary, with outstanding technical knowledge and a proven track record of working in Rosetted as well as Michelin star restaurants both in Europe and in the USA. He has attended the prestigious cookery schools at the Roux Brother’s, Raymond Blanc and Betty of Harrowgate.
Chef Marco has the “Midas touch” for turning around restaurants with a passion and drive for cooking. One of his key achievements includes the success in building the reputation and maximizing clientele of a critically acclaimed restaurant as “one of the best tapas restaurants in the UK”. And, he has also been featured on Radio Scotland and some of the UK’s Food Channels as well.
Crazy and romantic as he describes himself, Chef Marco has a very interesting culinary journey to share with us. As a social media lover, he was more than happy to take some time out of his busy teaching schedule to tell us his culinary story.
Q.What is it that brought you to the culinary world?
I must say it all started with my grandparents from both sides of the water, Mia Nona (Italian grandmother) y mi Abuela (Spanish grand mother). I know it is a cliché but in my story, it happened so as I was brought up in Spain with them. I started living with them from the age of 7 and at that time my grip on the Spanish language wasn’t that great which made me a very reserved child. So unlike other kids, I found quite a lot of solace in my grandparent’s company spending more time with them in their kitchen and going to the market with them. And that’s how I learned cooking and developed my interest in it.
Q. So when did it strike you that this is what you wanted to do for a living?
I didn’t know why I wanted to do it but when I used to help my nona in her kitchen, when I made something simple or even when setting up a table for dinners with friends and family, I just felt a sense of relief and peace being in the kitchen where I could just be myself. Also, when I cooked something even as simple as a tomato sauce I could see how it lit up my grandparent’s face and I think that’s what made me realize this is what I wanted to do.
Q. Could you please tell us something about your first ever commercial kitchen experience?
When I was 12, I started working in a nearby café called Martino’s for some extra pocket money. It was a small café that served some beautiful salads, light sandwiches and some lovely pastries; just some simple things nothing fancy. So I was more of a help there, doing some very basic things such as washing the vegetables, fruits, slicing or chopping. I enjoyed doing that and I stayed there till I was 15 and I learned a lot by doing more for that long a period.
Q. When did you start working as a chef?
After working at Martino’s, I was given a wonderful opportunity to work in a Michelin star restaurant in Paris. That is where I got professional training in French cooking and I worked there for four years. And I could say that was my first proper job in the culinary industry that made me who I am today.
Q. You have managed some kitchens prior to the instructor role, tell us something about it.
When I was in the UK I was in charge of 24 kitchens in total in both 3 star and 4-star hotels where I had about 300 chefs under me. It was a great experience working in the UK as I could be a part of many wonderful restaurants and that is where I had the chance to work with my mentor Marco Pierre White as well.
Q. From being a Head Chef to a Culinary Instructor, how was the transition for you?
To be honest, it was very difficult for me because your teaching method in a commercial kitchen is extremely different from teaching in a classroom. The environment is different; in a commercial kitchen it’s a little brutal but you can’t be like that with the students in the school. In a commercial kitchen, the language is quite colourful, to say the least, and it’s quite fast & furious there which, is not the case in a school.
When you are a culinary instructor you have to be extremely patient and you have to adapt yourself to different methods of teaching all of which I find a little difficult even now because I am more used to the commercial kitchen culture but now I have learned a lot being in this position and after all I wanted to explore more of the other side of the industry which is not as hectic as the commercial kitchen work.
Q. Whether you’re in school or at home, you’re a full-on social media person. How do you manage everything so wonderfully?
I am but I have to tell you that I had to go through a lot of sleepless nights to teach myself all of these. When I was back in the kitchen I was not much into any of these but when I became an Instructor I started learning so many new things and social media is a great platform not only to showcase your talent but you can also keep yourself updated about other fresh talents and trends in the industry in a fun way. And regarding time, when you enjoy doing something I think you will make or find time for that.
Q. Tell us something about your personal blog.
My blog – The Experimental Kitchen, is all about simple cooking for home cooks and this here is no fine dining. The concept is such that anyone and everyone could do my recipes without any difficulties. Actually, this concept was born out of the fact that people nowadays are too busy; forget cooking they don’t even have the time to eat. So mostly they depend on their local supermarket for readymade meals and hey, even I have done that. So I thought why not I come up with some nice and simple dishes which could be even made and stored in advance for our busy lifestyle.
Q. Blogging involves a lot of writing. Were you used to writing or you discovered the writer in you when you started blogging?
No Shruti, back in our days we used to write a lot of handwritten letters to our friends and family as that was the common means of communication during those days. I always used to keep my letters long because I enjoyed sharing my experiences with my loved ones in a storytelling way. So I think when I started blogging writing came naturally to me.
Q. Chef or writer which role expresses Marco well?
Can I say 50-50? (Laughs) Well, I think I express different sides of me during both the roles. While I am cooking I am the crazy Marco and then the writer brings the romantic side of me. I could say these two Marcos are entirely different from each other.
Q. Chef, Culinary Instructor and a Writer. What’s next?
I think I want to try TV now. I am very comfortable in front of the camera and I have done a few things before as well. I have a couple of ideas regarding the same which I am in discussion with some people at the moment and if things go right I think I can pull this off along with the teaching profession. I mean I love teaching it really is something else.
After the graduation to see the kids leaving to achieve greater heights is a moment of pride and joy. For me, I get a little melancholy and the students are not going to believe this but I do get a little emotional when they are leaving. I think you feel that kind of affection especially when you are a teacher.