Kelvin MacKenzie Interview

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“I have never cooked…ever. I give myself a pat on the back in the morning when I pour out my cornflakes. It’s the adding of the milk. I had to go to night school for that!”


Media executive, broadcaster and former newspaper editor Kelvin MacKenzie, 63, reveals that cooking has simply passed him by. So how does he think he is going to survive in a busy restaurant kitchen, cooking for 25 people?


“It’s a massive challenge. But it seems to me that if you are reasonably intelligent, you should be able to conquer it.  In a lot of families, they are coming in at night, and doing it while doing a thousand other things. The old multi-tasking trick.  So I just think I’ll have to apply myself.


“It’s like most things. It’s all about confidence. And I quite like the fact that Marco says, it’s the bits that you add to the meat and fish – that is, the cook’s cheat in a way – that turns a £4 fish dish to a meal costing £22.75. That’s why when restaurants get it right, everyone is a billionaire.”


He admits that until now, rather than try to cook, he simply eats out twice a day.


“The fact is, I have never cooked in my life…ever. I mean, literally. Only over the last few years have I learned to put a chicken in the Aga. In fact I give myself a pat on the back when I pour out my Kelloggs in the morning. It’s the adding of the milk. I had to go to night school for that.


“Cooking has never appealed to me. The argument I use is that I drink wine, but I don’t crush the grapes. I left school at 16, and so basically went from home to work, and the cooking of food seemed to pass me by. I moved effortlessly from mother, to girlfriend, to wife, to wife.”


Eighteen months ago, he was re-married to wife Sarah, who, like her husband, works long hours.


“My wife works full time, and it seems unreasonable to expect someone who works from 7am to 7pm to say, ‘Well, when you come in I’ll have steak, and onions, and a bit of this and a bit of that,’ So I’m hoping I discover something to cook her for a change.


“What I want to do is break through the mystique of cooking.  I want in some way to understand, with a bit of Marco trickery, what you have to do to create a fairly passable meal. I tend to like simple meals that won’t put on weight.”


His biggest concern is creating something that is acceptable to the diners.


 “I’ll be looking for help from Marco, to be fair. And I’m not going to be afraid to ask for it. I’d be a fool to carry on doing something wrong. First of all I’d look an idiot, which I don’t mind. But most of all, it will be the 25 people sitting there looking at this terrible splodge, saying ‘There is actually something else I could be doing tonight, rather than working my way through this!’”



A strong character in his own right, Kelvin is quite prepared for temperatures to be raised in the kitchen.


“I am poor at taking orders, but taking instructions in an area I don’t know anything about, then I’d be a fool if I wasn’t listening.


“Just being shouted at that the bloody sausages are burned is not helpful. But Marco’s not like that in his series. He is more of a mentor. So he won’t shout at me saying, ‘The sausages are burnt you bloody idiot.’ What he will say is, ‘In order not to burn the sausages in future, I suggest to you….’ and then gives you one of those long stares.


“I like the stares. I describe it as the ‘stare-way’ to heaven. He describes himself as Fred As-stare!”


As former editor of The Sun, it crossed Kelvin’s mind that he may have run the odd tabloid story which may have displeased the chef. But he is quick to add that he hasn’t been chased around the kitchen with a meat cleaver.


“Not yet, although I do notice that he holds that knife in a threatening manner. I am sure at some stage there would have been a ‘disobliging article’ as we call them. But basically he could fill the Thames with the cuttings of his life.


“If I get on with him…great. If I am not good enough, then I shouldn’t go through.”


He’s very aware that he is up again two strong rivals in his heat, Tupele Dorgo and Donna Air.


They are capable cooks in their own right. They don’t have this initial hurdle to get over, which is…how do you turn the grill on?


“Even though, they still have to produce 25 three course meals. It’s no good if they come out with 12 brilliant main courses and there are 12 people out there starving.


“Whether my food is good, bad or indifferent, I am going to get that food out on the button rather than let people sit there. My strategy is that they will get their food before they become vaguely bad-tempered, no matter what gets served up.”








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