As Chef Patron of Koffmann’s at The Berkeley in London’s Knightsbridge, Pierre Koffmann is one of the few chefs in the UK to have been awarded – for La Tante Claire – the much desired three Michelin stars. Having passed on his expertise to the likes of Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White and Marcus Wareing, Impact Food ask about his Michelin stars, pigs trotters and if he had any tips for students!
HOW DID YOU EAT WHEN YOU WERE A STUDENT?
When I was growing up in France, my mother used to always cook for me using fresh ingredients. We had no choice and had to eat whatever she was cooking! Nowadays, a family of four asks each other what the other is having, but it shouldn’t be like that. People should sit round the table together and all eat the same food.
My mother cooked mainly fish and meat – we never had any ready meals like students eat now! Every Friday we had fish, as was traditional. We had three meals each day like in England, but our breakfasts were very small – you would never find anything the size of an English fry up! We would just have a coffee, with some bread butter and jam. That was breakfast.
WHAT IS THE BEST DISH YOU COULD MAKE FOR AROUND A TENNER?
I would always recommend students to use chicken as, unlike in my day, it’s very cheap meat. When I first came to London, I was earning only eight pounds a week so could not afford top quality food. Like most students I was eating mainly pasta as it was cheap and incredibly easy to make. Another option for students is to go to the butchers on a Saturday afternoon before it closes, as the butcher sometimes prepares cuts of meat at a discount.
A tip I would give to students who want to try something different and eat well is to stuff vegetables, like tomatoes and courgettes, with meat. Fill the vegetables with meat such as sausage and bacon and bake it in the oven. This takes no time at all and these ingredients are very accessible to students, and not expensive. It is also good to eat a lot of vegetables. Finally, butchers will sell you very cheap chicken bones, from which you can make a stock and a beautiful soup – especially good for the winter when you’re back at university.
WHAT ARE THE CLASSIC MISTAKES MADE BY YOUNG COOKS AND ASPIRING CHEFS?
The big mistake for all young people who start to cook, is that they want the plate to look good and they don’t taste enough food. They forget to do the basics – they want to know how to do the sauces before they learn how to make a stock! When starting to cook at university make sure you get all the basics right! Seasoning, for example, is crucial; sometimes the difference between a good dish and bad dish is a pinch of salt.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR ASPIRING CHEFS AT UNIVERSITY?
The best advice I can give is to go and learn in a proper kitchen, rather than a private cookery school. Most cookery schools have a nice ambiance and environment, but when the young people come out they are not ready for the toughness that a kitchen demands.
AS A CHEF, YOU ARE FAMOUS FOR YOUR PIGS’ TROTTERS. IS IT TRUE THAT YOU ONLY USE THE BACK TROTTERS?
It’s true! The front legs are quite small and are harder to debone. There is more bone at the back and they shrink when cooked. When we had a pop up at Selfridges we did 3,200 trotters!
Louis Fitzherbert and George Hughes-Davis
Image by Ingrid Nicholas