Marcus Wareing reveals his love of the South of France

Marcus Wareing’s Riviera on a plate: The MasterChef star reveals his love of the South of France – and how you can get as much joy from a glass of rosé and a roadside rotisserie as the most refined restaurant

  • Marcus explains that his lifelong love affair with the country began during his training at catering college 
  • Family picnics with fresh bread, cheese and fruit from a stall form some of his fondest holiday memories  
  • ‘Rosé is my drink of choice on holiday from anywhere in the South of France,’ he says 

One of the simplest pleasures in life is good food, and for me the best place to enjoy this is France. My love affair with the country goes back to catering college, which isn’t unusual for a chef. Ask any of us about basic training and each will tell you how strong an influence French classical cooking is for them. For me, it ignited a lifelong passion for the place.

My wife Jane and I met when I was sous chef at Gravetye Manor in West Sussex. Before we married in 2000, I chose a daft location for my stag weekend – Antibes. It was really just an excuse to go with five mates, eat sensational French food and drink great wine in incredibly glamorous surroundings.

I’ll never forget arriving at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo with fabulous cars parked outside, then heading into Alain Ducasse’s restaurant Louis XV to enjoy his amazing food.

Marcus says that he loves the richness of the landscape and coastline on the French Riviera (pictured is Port Grimaud, which is in one of the chef’s favourite areas) 

Family break: Marcus and Jane in France with Jessie, Jake and Archie

When our three children – Jake, Archie and Jessie – were young and before we set up our business, money was short so we had holidays in the UK. But as soon as we could afford it, we spent summers on the French Riviera – there’s nowhere better than being in the little villages away from the coast, such as Grimaud, Cogolin or Ramatuelle.

I love the richness of the landscape and coastline there. Colours are vivid, the sea is bright, and it’s everything you imagine it to be, as portrayed so brilliantly in the movies of the 1950s and 1960s like Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief.

Le Suquet, the old town of Cannes above the port, is a bit commercial now thanks to the international film festival, but head up into the hills and it’s stunning. It’s just under a two-hour drive from Monaco, through Nice, Antibes, Cannes and Frejus along the coast on the A8 to St Tropez.

We usually fly to Nice and sometimes split our time between a hotel (for luxury) and a villa for a relaxed break where we cook, eat together, hang out on the beach or by the pool, play card games and enjoy the local ingredients. When we first started coming here, it was difficult to know if what you were booking online was going to be any good, but we struck lucky with Royal Villas Europe and AMA Selections.

When the children were younger, holidays were simple. We’d find a spot to buy fresh bread and cheese, pick up fruit from a roadside stall and picnic somewhere peaceful set back from the road. Those uncomplicated times make for the best memories. Now Jane and I trek to the markets and supermarkets from whichever village we’re staying in and come back laden with fresh produce.

It may surprise you but we don’t eat in restaurants very often when we’re staying in a villa. We prefer to cook at home.

I’m not a great linguist – I’ve worked in enough kitchens to understand the language of cookery and I tried to learn French when I worked in Paris, but over there the other chefs just wanted to practise their English on me.

Even so, I like to choose my own ingredients – I buy local and don’t hesitate to stop off at roadside stalls. Peaches, tomatoes, cucumbers – there’s incredible quality on offer and I’m always surprised at how good they taste, but that’s the benefit of continuous sun. There’s also nothing wrong with roadside vans you see selling rotisserie chicken, but always eat them the same day to be on the safe side.

Marcus says: ‘I love cooking on holiday. I’ll put on some music, fire up the barbecue and grill something like a whole dorado.’ Pictured is the quaint village of Ramatuelle near Saint Tropez

Pick of the bunch: Fresh fruit on sale at a roadside stall near Nice


Villa Vue Mer

Chic four-bedroom villa offers views of St Tropez from the infinity pool and picture-perfect terrace. 

Departing on July 6, a week-long break costs £6,106, or £763pp if eight people are staying.

Elegant Villa Vue Mer

Villa Beauvallon

Elegantly cool yet traditional villa is painted soft pink and features white shutters, a gorgeous pool and outside dining and lounge terrace, and is a short drive from a sandy beach. There are four double bedrooms – two open out on to the gardens – and five bathrooms. A cook can be hired. A week-long stay in July costs £7,433, or £929 per person.

Villa Chesnaie

Practise your tennis or swim in the 23ft pool at this villa 19 miles from Cannes. It sleeps up to six and has two sun terraces in the extensive grounds. Fill the beds and it costs just £202pp for a week, or a total of £1,212.

Villa La Lezardiere

Enjoy some peace in this traditional four-bedroom stone cottage in the hills above St Tropez. A selection of sunloungers and outdoor tables on two terraces sit beside a fire pit and the pool. The property costs a total of £5,034 for a week, or £879pp, including flights.

Domaine des Parfums 

Holiday like a Riviera billionaire near Christian Dior’s favourite French village, Montauroux. This villa has seven en suite bedrooms plus a wine cellar and cinema room. Outside there’s a boules area and infinity pool. Up to 12 adults and two children can holiday here – rent the whole villa in September from £11,973.


I love cooking on holiday. I’ll put on some music, fire up the barbecue and grill something like a whole dorado.

If you’re buying fish at a market, look for a gloss. The slime all fish have when they’ve been caught will have been washed off, but look at the eyes: they should gleam.

Live lobster is always worth buying. And don’t be afraid of cooking fresh tiger prawns – they’re easy to grill and taste wonderful.

The kids join in too. Jake, now 17, does a mean steak sandwich. He knows to sear the meat first and gets the right amount of juices and mustard. Archie, 14, is a breakfast fiend – he’s great at avocado on toast and scrambled eggs. And Jessie, 11, is the baker; she makes a cracking chocolate and coffee cake.

Rosé is my drink of choice on holiday from anywhere in the South of France – I rarely drink red on holiday unless I’m in a restaurant. The region is littered with wonderful vineyards and there is so much choice, with great bottles costing as little as €5 – about £4.50. Remember, rosé is made to drink now (not to be laid down) – it doesn’t pay to take it home.

For anyone who likes people-watching, like us, head to Pampelonne, the most famous beach in St Tropez. It’s a three-mile stretch of sand in a protected bay, and gets packed in summer.

If you don’t like having very little space between your beach towel and that of a stranger, there are beach clubs where you can book a sunlounger.

There’s always chaos and a celebrity crowd at the family-run Le Club 55 (, which started out as a beach bar for the crew shooting And God Created Woman with Brigitte Bardot. Plenty of super-yachts drop anchor here, so you can watch the people on board watching the people on the beach watching them…

In Frejus, the beach is an obvious draw, but do wander through the port to the old town. You don’t have to spend a fortune eating out, especially for lunch. There’s no point in stressing out about eating in the ‘right’ restaurant just because you’re in France. Find something to suit you. I’m not against fast food either – I love pizza.

In the old days you’d follow a guidebook to find the best restaurants or places you wanted to eat. Social media has changed all that, although people’s interpretation of a great place differs so widely. A restaurant with a chef patron means you can expect a certain level of excellence. And look for somewhere that has been in the same family for generations.

It’s about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from St Tropez to Valence, but Anne-Sophie Pic’s restaurant, Maison Pic (, is a must. Anne-Sophie is a fourth-generation chef – a dynasty started by her great-grandmother 130 years ago. 

The restaurant is a culinary oasis and she is the fourth female chef to ever win three Michelin stars.

In Aubrac, Michel Bras’s eponymous restaurant ( now has his son Sebastian in the kitchen. Michel was the first to have a place on a hill: it’s a dining room with bedrooms. Wild herbs, vegetables and flavours of southern France sit outside your door. Sensational.



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