Part of The Big Feastival 2018 line up...
The man who shaped the way we eat.
50 years a chef, Pierre Koffmann learnt to cook as a boy in South West France, learning from his grandparents as he grew up before studying for 3 years at his local cookery school from 14 years old. He then worked as a chef in Strasbourg and Toulon, cooking regional dishes of France which later became the classics he is now famed for.
Pierre moved to the United Kingdom in 1970 after applying for a short-term position with Michel and Albert Roux at Le Gavroche. After six months he became the sous chef there, and shortly afterwards was appointed as Head Chef at their new Waterside Inn in Bray.
In 1977, Pierre opened his own restaurant with his first wife Annie; Le Tante Claire, on Royal Hospital Road in Chelsea, which after six years was awarded the maximum three Michelin stars. In 1998, Le Tante Claire moved to The Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge, where it remained until Koffmann retired in 2003. Koffmann has worked with some of the most esteemed chefs in the industry, his proteges including but not limited to Tom Aikens, Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White, Marcus Wareing, Bruno Loubet, Tom Kitchin and Jason Atherton.
One recipe that remains synonymous with Pierre Koffmann’s cooking is his stuffed pig trotter. This humblest of cuts is transformed through the incredibly complicated task of deboning, then stuffed with luxurious ingredients (sweetbreads, morel mushrooms and onions, bound by a light chicken mousse). Humble and honest, but concealing luxury within, it combines the simple with the decadent, perfectly embodying Koffmann’s attitude to food. Speaking about his own recipe, Koffmann says “I didn’t actually create the stuffed trotter: I just came up with a new way of doing it”.
This style of cooking was revolutionary to the London restaurant scene. Speaking of his own influence, Koffmann says “I was the first chef to dust the inside of a soufflé with grated chocolate instead of with sugar, the first in London to do confit salmon, and the first to serve beef cheeks, too.” Aside from his pig’s trotters, Koffmann is also famed for his pistachio soufflé, an innovation of his which is still served on the menu at Koffmann’s today.
After spending 6 years as a consultant, Koffmann came out of retirement in 2009 and opened a pop-up of Le Tante Claire on the roof at Selfridges. Despite only being planned for two weeks, the pop-up was extended to a two-month residency following fantastic reception; in these eight weeks he served up 3200 of his famous pig’s trotters.
Over 50 years as a professional chef, and Koffmann’s cooking proved timeless despite London’s ever-changing restaurant scene; “The ingredients are the same, we still use a lot of alcohol for cooking, we still make a lot of sauces, we still buy the meat from the same butchers, top-quality meat, and we only buy wild fish, never farmed.” The instant sell-out of his Le Tante Claire pop-up is proof that his cooking withstands the tests of time, as London trends come and go.
This time back in the kitchen prompted Koffmann to return to the kitchen at The Berkeley Hotel to open Koffmann’s with his wife Claire; less formal than Le Tante Claire, Koffmann’s repertoire still favoured the regional French food from his childhood, as he continues to pass on his unparalleled knowledge to those he works with.