Top chef tells of admiration for Bernard

Michelin-starred chef Marco Pierre White has told of his admiration for Bernard Matthews following the turkey tycoon's death.

Mr Matthews, who was 80, died at his home in Great Witchingham on Thursday.

Mr White was unveiled as an ambassador for the famous company in March in a bid to boost the profile of turkey as a great-tasting and versatile meat.

The restaurateur has now said Mr Matthews had as much of an impact on the nation's diet as Delia Smith.

In a national newspaper, White said: 'Bernard was a great farmer and accomplished entrepreneur and his life was devoted to feeding others. It's a passion that I wholeheartedly appreciate and admire and a legacy to which so many aspire.'

Brooke-born Mr Matthews, CBE, started up his poultry company in 1950, but it was the memorable 'Bootiful' catchphrase he used in television adverts for his turkeys which really made him a household name.

Marco Pierre White said: 'The challenge of taking the Bernard Matthews firm forward has been an inspirational one and perhaps there's more than a little sentimentality attached. You see, at 48 I'm old enough to remember the classic TV commercials of Bernard telling the nation in his soft Norfolk accent that turkey was 'bootiful'.

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'Quite simply Bernard did for turkey what Delia did for cakes.'

The Hell's Kitchen star also told of the criticism and snobbery which followed his appointment as ambassador to the Bernard Matthews brand, and defended his involvement, saying he visited one of the company's farms before signing up.

He said: 'I've wandered through those sheds with the curious birds following me and pecking at my boots and I have to say that those sheds are like hotels for turkeys.

'I've met dozens of staff at Bernard Matthews, many of whom have worked there for 30 or 40 years, and they are good farmers who have devoted their lives to the company.'

Growing up on a council estate in Leeds, Mr White said he remembered his family scrimping and saving to be able to afford the luxury of a turkey on Christmas day, and that he applauded Matthews for making turkeys affordable for all.

He said: 'It's easy to knock modern farming methods but where would we be without them? Stocks would be low or even non-existent. Choice would be severely limited.'

Mr White added: 'If I have one wish it would be that when the people of Britain site down to have their Christmas lunch, with all the wonderful trimmings, they will raise a glass to Mr Matthews.

'Let's toast the man who made turkey affordable for every household in Britain.'