He’s in an expansive mood as he holds court on the terrace outside the restaurant that bears his name on the 25th floor of The Cube, the sun setting on the Lickey Hills.
Marco Pierre White is a notoriously volatile man – charming one moment, fiery the next. But this evening he’s on form, chatting openly, joking, happily posing for photographs with fans.
Never more animated, though, than when he begins to speak about street food.
Odd, some might think, for a man who was the youngest chef ever to gain three Michelin stars and who’s regarded as the founding father of the culinary revolution that has swept through Britain during the past three decades.
But don’t forget: he grew disillusioned with the pressure and pretence of fine dining and gave up his Michelin stars in 1999, when he announced his retirement from the kitchen.
He likes, he insists, ‘honest food’.
“When I’m in Singapore,” he says, “I go straight to the street food markets. When I’m in Jamaica, I queue up for peanut porridge with the workers.
Here, though, it’s reached quite those levels.
Not that he denigrates British – or Brummie – food. “The food scene is a jigsaw with lots of little pieces,” he says. “Right now, here in Birmingham, there will be a husband and wife working hard creating the food they love in little restaurants – those sweet, small places that we should celebrate. “At the end of the day, it’s all about eating with the people you love.”
Now a restaurateur and television personality, he travels extensively and adores food that’s native to the places he visits.
But he insists that France is still the country to which other cuisines look for inspiration and technique.
Not surprising words, maybe, for a chef whose classical training began with the Roux brothers at Le Gavroche and continued under Pierre Koffman and Raymond Blanc.
And there, perhaps, is the paradox of a hugely influential figure – a man whose roots are sunk deep in the classic tradition but who has long since turned his back on its rarefied heights.
A fascinating chat with an enigmatic man.