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.
Unsuccessful academically, he opted for the local cooking school when he was 14 in an effort to put off for a little longer the world of work. Studying there for three years, learning about all aspects of the hospitality industry, he chose the kitchen as his speciality and on graduation started working his way around France – in spite of his final year report that advised he would ‘never do anything in the restaurant business’.
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.’