The Best Chef Legend Award
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Pierre Koffmann was born in Tarbes in central Gascony, in South West France, in 1948. His mother was an excellent cook, but it was the school holidays he spent with his grandparents – peasant farmers who lived off the land – that left the greatest impression. The couple had a farm in the tiny nearby village of Saint Puy, and he spent many happy weeks there helping his grandfather Marcel harvest and hunt. His grandmother Camille did most of her cooking over an open fire, producing mouth-watering dishes, using every possible part of the animal, from the bounty offered up by the seasons.
He arrived in England in the early 1970s, a young man of 22, taking up a position at Michel and Albert Roux’s Le Gavroche in London. Within six months he was sous chef and soon after was appointed as head chef of their new Waterside Inn at Bray. He remembers his time there fondly, particularly their philosophy of hospitality. At the Inn he was free to cook the food he wanted, and during his five years there he helped them achieve two Michelin stars.
In 1977 Pierre Koffmann and his first wife Annie opened their own restaurant, La Tante Claire, in Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea. Within six years they had been awarded the maximum three Michelin stars, making him one of only three chefs in the United Kingdom to achieve such an accolade. The number of Britain’s top chefs who have trained under Pierre Koffmann is truly incredible – Tom Aikens, Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White, Marcus Wareing, Bruno Loubet, Tom Kitchin, Jason Atherton, to name but a few. His protégés have now amassed more than 20 Michelin stars between them. Kitchin told The Guardian of his respect for the great chef: ‘The skill of the man is incredible. He can extract flavour from anything.’