10 Minutes With: Pierre Koffmann, 50 Years a Chef

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th October 2016

Pierre Koffmann, has achieved many an accolade in his career including three stars in the Michelin Guide with La Tante Claire and most recently he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the AA Restaurant Guide Hospitality Awards 2016.  

Hailed as an incredible mentor and producer of some of today’s most well known chefs including Marco Pierre White, Tom Aikens, Gordon Ramsay and Jason Atherston; Pierre last night launched his new book, 50 Years a Chef, at Koffman’s at the Berkeley which celebrates his 50 years in the industry and is full of his signature recipes.

He was joined by the cooking elite including a number of his protégés, but we managed to get ten minutes with the ‘legend’ to talk about his career, what motivates him to still put on his whites and the pigs trotter!

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Which dish does Pierre Koffmann consider to be his signature dish?

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What has kept you motivated and cooking for such a long period of time?

The joy and pleasure of cooking, I still have a bit of fire in me. If you enjoy what you are doing you can go as far as your legs can carry you.

In that 50-years you have trained and developed some of the best chefs in the UK that must be something you are very proud of?

Some people ask ‘how do you manage to make so many good chefs?’ To be honest I didn’t, they came to work with me because they wanted to and they wanted to be a good chef and they wanted to progress in their trade so I would like to say thank you to all of those brilliant young chefs who have helped me be successful for 50 years.

What is your signature dish?

Of course you have to say the pig’s trotter. I don’t know why the pig’s trotter was so successful. I put it out in 1977 when British people weren’t into that type of food but it was a hit from the start and people talked about it even if they didn’t eat it. It made a lot noise and that’s how it happened.

Marco Pierre White also did pig’s trotter and named the dish, so you think this was a tribute to you and do you think other chefs copying dishes is something they should do?

I don’t know if they should or shouldn’t do it, I’m not there to judge them but I want to give my thanks to Marco for doing it and he was the only one to do it too. The pig’s trotter was available in all the top restaurants in the England so thank you to Marco.

How many pig’s trotters do you think you have cooked?

Pig's trotter

Thousands and thousands. When we did the pop up in Selfridges it was only meant to be for a week but it went on for eight and we did 3, 800 trotters in that time and that was just in eight weeks!

Is there one dish in the book that is your favourite?

If a doctor was to say to me you’re going to die, pick your favourite dish that would have to be a bouillabaisse. I hope I can go to the French Rivera where they do the bouillabaisse. So that is my favourite dish.

Who have you collaborated with on the book?

With this book there wasn’t a lot of collaboration with other chefs it was more a collaboration with the book publisher who was absolutely fantastic. I think they did a fantastic job with the book.

Who are the recipes in the book aimed at?

All the recipes in the book I have included for home cooking, I kept it simple so there are not a lot of ingredients. I hope the people who go out and buy the book will try the recipes as there were meant to be more simple suitable for home cooking.

What advice would you give to somebody wanting to come into the industry?

Saying you want to be a chef only makes up 10% of it, you have to be gifted and put in lots of hard work. You have to make it your passion and if you work very hard in your life you will be successful.


What will be your next venture after Koffmann’s closes?

I don’t know yet, I will probably know what my next move will be in about four weeks.

After 50 years do you still want to put the chef whites on?

As long as you have the passion for cooking you should do it. If I stop cooking I’m going to stay on the sofa and in front of the TV and in two years I will be dead!

What made La Tante Claire so special, what do you think it is about that little Chelsea restaurant?

Maybe it’s a lucky place, we had three stars from 1997 to 1998 and it is still there after many, many years so good luck to the next chef if there is a new chef.

How do you think the UK has changed since opening La Tante Claire in 1977?

I came to the UK in the 1970’s and it was rubbish, I didn’t come to England for the food I came to England to watch a rugby game, England vs France. The food was quite poor at the time and everybody talked about English food such as prawn cocktail and avocado, things like that. Now it is as good as anywhere else in the world thanks to some really good chefs. At the beginning maybe tradition was missing but now there are some young, fantastic British chefs.

 As a proud Frenchman do you think you can eat out in London as good as you can in Paris?

 Oh yes, I have no problem with that. I’m sure I can eat as well in London as I can in Paris or any city in the world. I love to go to Spain to be different but the food in London is brilliant.”

>>> Read more about Pierre Koffmann here

 

 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th October 2016

10 Minutes With: Pierre Koffmann, 50 Years a Chef