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Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Pierre Koffmann, Koffmann's

01 July 2011
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Pierre Koffmann, Koffmann's

Overall ranking: 61 (NEW ENTRY)

Chef ranking: 16 (NEW ENTRY)

Pierre Koffmann - Snapshot

Pierre Koffmann is the chef-patron of Koffmann's at the Berkeley Hotel in London and an iconic French chef who ran the three-Michelin starred La Tante Claire, in London, from 1977 to 2003.

Born in Tarbes, France in 1948, Koffmann enrolled in cookery school aged 15, after trying his hand at a number of other jobs. Three years later, upon graduation, his report card claimed he "will never do anything in catering". Stints in Strasbourg and Toulon followed, before he made the leap across the Channel to work at Le Gavroche - in 1970, principally, he claims, because he wanted to see France play England at Twickenham. When the Roux brothers opened the Waterside Inn in Bray two years later, they asked Koffmann to be their first head chef.

Five years later, Koffmann opened his own restaurant, La Tante Claire, in 1977 in London's Chelsea, alongside his late wife Annie. The pair ran it together until Annie's death in 1998, specializing in a refined version of the French country cooking of his home region of Gascony and winning the top accolade of three Michelin stars in 1983.

Ramsay made Koffmann an offer he couldn't refuse when he bought the original La Tante Claire premises on Chelsea's Royal Hospital Road in 1998, prompting Koffmann, after more than 20 years, to relocate to the Berkeley hotel. The move cost La Tante Claire its third star, which it lost in 1999, and Koffmann never regained it.

Koffmann decided to close La Tante Claire in 2003, admitting he was unhappy working in a hotel restaurant. Despite announcing plans to retire, he remained involved in the industry, consulting on a number of restaurants and spending a year as head chef at the Bleeding Heart restaurant in London's Farringdon.

After years of rumours about a possible full-time return to the stove, Koffmann announced he would launch a pop-up restaurant for nine days at London department store Selfridges in October 2009, as part of the inaugural London Restaurant Festival. Popular demand meant the days turned into two months, and convinced him to return to the stove full time, opening Koffmann's at the Berkeley in June 2010, with a menu focused more on rustic Gascon dishes than the fine-dining which originally saw him gain three stars.

Pierre Koffmann - What we think

Koffmann's reputation among British chefs is almost unparalleled. Chefs such as Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsay, Tom Aikens, Tom Kitchin and Marcus Wareing all passed through his kitchen, with many of his protégés still in regular contact with him.

Even the loss of La Tante Claire's third Michelin star in 1999 did no lasting damage to Koffmann's reputation, and he has been described as "God" by chefs, principally for his ability to utilize, and extract flavour from, every part of the animal. His ability to create extraordinary and gutsy dishes from simple ingredients, demonstrated perfectly in his signature dish of pig's trotter with chicken mousseline, sweetbreads and morels, his quiet dedication to one restaurant and an aversion to publicity arguably make him the ultimate chef's chef.

A return to the stove aged 62 only highlights his enduring passion for cooking, and has been met with accolades including the special award at the Craft Guild of Chefs Awards 2010, a full 21 years after he picked up the Chef Award at the 1989 Cateys.

Pierre Koffmann is back at the Berkeley >>

Pierre Koffmann: Top of the Pop-ups >>

Chef Eats Out: Pierre Koffmann >>

Koffmann reveals full details of restaurant at the Berkeley >>

Pierre Koffmann scoops Craft Guild of Chefs Special Award >>

Koffmann's website >>

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