Interview: Pierre Koffmann

Pierre Koffmann was born in Tarbes, France, in 1948. After working the kitchens in Strasbourg and Toulon, he relocated to London in 1970, working with Michel Roux and Albert Roux at Le Gavroche. He soon took the role of head chef at the Roux’s Waterside Inn in Bray, in 1972, before finally opening his own restaurant, La Tante Claire, in 1977. Koffmann won much acclaim and many accolades during this time, not least three Michelin stars.

After a brief hiatus, Koffmann returned to cooking in 2010, opening the eponymous Koffmann’s at The Berkeley – a far more informal affair, focusing less on Michelin stars and more on the chef’s culinary heritage. We met with Koffmann to discuss the ethos behind his new restaurant, and why he’s no longer driven by those prized Michelin stars.

What is the philosophy behind Koffmann’s?

I like to cook the kind of food I like to eat. Koffmann’s at The Berkeley is a more relaxed, informal style, while still embracing my classic, provincial, French culinary roots.

What are the key factors to running a successful restaurant?

I think it is important to work hard, have drive and be passionate.

What is the dish you are most proud of and why?

People will remember me for the pig’s trotters. It will be on my tombstone, but I feel I’ve done so much more.

In your opinion, how has food in the UK evolved over the years?

It has evolved tremendously. There are better ingredients, and restaurants are becoming more open minded of their customers.

Who influenced you to become a chef, and how did you train?

I was influenced by grandmother, Camille. I went to cooking school in Tarbes, and the rest is history!

You opened at The Berkeley in 2010. What has the response been like?

The response has been wonderful. I’m just happy to be back behind the stove, cooking for people who love to eat.

You have been quoted as saying you are no longer concerned with Michelin stars. Why’s that?

For a long while, I had three. Now, I cook from the heart and don’t think about getting Michelin stars.

What was your favourite meal as a child?

My favourite meal as a child was one my grandmother cooked so well: ragout d’abattis.

Do you have a favourite restaurant?

My favourite restaurant is the Bacon at Cap d’Antibes.

Do you have any favourite English restaurants or chefs?

There are so many to choose. It depends on my mood. But I really enjoy Bistro Bruno Loubet.

Laith Al-Kaisy

Laith has worked as a hack on national papers and magazines. The Review Magazine is home to his restaurant reviews and travel writing.

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