Living The Dream in Pierre Koffmann’s Kitchen

He started off peeling the vegetables and now works for the man he says is the best chef in the UK. Westminster Kingsway-trained Bobby Saunders tells us why he’s living the dream in Pierre Koffmann’s kitchen.

When did you first start considering a career in catering and what was your impression of the industry from the outside?
As a child growing up I was always intrigued by food and the concepts surrounding it. My father was an ex executive chef so I was I brought up with great food and given the knowledge of it from a very young age, so that’s when the passion started. From then on I always knew what I wanted to be.

The impression that most people have of the industry is of a tough one where hours are long and tensions are high which is true, but for me I always knew what was expected of me so nothing could have distracted or deterred me from getting into the industry.

img_1695Who inspired you become a chef?
Easy question to answer – my dad! He’s a fantastic cook and a great man whose knowledge of food surprises me and he’s taught me a lot and is my inspiration.

Aside from my dad, going to secondary school at the City of London Academy there was only one lesson I looked forward to every week – food tech. I had a great teacher called Mrs Brook-Walters who inspired me a lot and she had a real passion which she passed on to us students. I’ll always be thankful to her.

As for going to catering college, at Westminster Kingsway there’s one lecturer who inspired me and told me to go after my dreams and that is Chef Bushay. She was a tough but fantastic mentor who is a great asset to the college and teaching in Britain. She’s an unsung hero.

img_1740Tell us about your current job, the high and low points?
My current job is working with the great Pierre Koffmann at the Berkeley in Knightsbridge as a Demi Chef de Partie. I’ve been here for two and a half years having started when I turned 18 after two years at Westminster Kingsway College.

I started off peeling vegetables and have gone on to run three sections of the kitchen and it’s been a great journey. The restaurant is a complete one off in this day and age where it’s hard to come by proper nouvelle cuisine and old school cooking where the only tools you use are your equipment and your brain and the knowledge passed down from the chef.

It’s a complete heaven for anyone who loves the classics. Low points – what low points? I’m living the dream.

What do you learn from a chef like Pierre Koffmann?
Where to begin? The knowledge that you get from working with a chef like Pierre is something money can’t buy, it’s what dreams are made of. Anyone who has worked for him will say the same in that he’s pushed me from day one but what he has done for me and my future is something I can never fully thank him for. For me he is the greatest chef to have ever blessed the British food scene, hands down.

Do you hope to run your own kitchen one day? If so, what would be your signature dish?
That’s the dream for me. I always tell myself there are no limitations to what you can achieve if you work hard and believe in yourself. I would love to one day have a team where we share the same vision of telling a story with the food you put on the plate.

I’m a big believer in treating people with respect because you will get that respect back. From Kitchen Porter up to Head Chef you’re all in it together.

My preferred cooking is that of nouvelle cuisine, wholehearted food that tells a story or triggers a memory from childhood. That’s the food I love and that’s what I would specialise in, in the future. As for signature dish – watch this space!

img_2761Would you recommend catering to a young person considering their career options, and why?
Of course. If food is what you have a passion for and you want to explore it then go for it. You have to believe in yourself and don’t let anyone knock you down and always give it 110%. You need to show character because only the characters do well in this business.

For you to put food on a plate and say it’s your food takes guts and passion. Only the best survive in this business and then do it by being who they are.

What’s next for you?
As you may be aware the restaurant is closing at the end of the year and I’ll be here until the end of course. So I will be carrying on learning my trade under the great Pierre Koffmann, keep believing and not giving up and who knows where it will take me?