EUGENE KAUFELER OFFERED ME MY 1ST CHEF POSITION AT THE DORCHESTER AGED 14
From the age of 14, I always wanted to be a chef but, in those days, it wasn’t seen as a ‘real’ career in the UK like it is today; whereas, if you went to Switzerland and France, it was seen as a serious profession.
One summer, I was bored so my Mum decided to phone as many chefs as she could from some of London's best restaurants to try to get me a job. It was very difficult to contact them but, by chance, one of the people she called at The Dorchester said that the chef, Eugene Kaufeler, was in a bad mood because someone had been fired so could we come down straight away. Well, that was it. We ran down to the tube station to get there and it went from there. Initially, I was only supposed to be there for two weeks but eight weeks on, I was still there. When I told Eugene I was leaving, he said ‘Where are you going? Where are you going? I said ‘I’ve got to go back to school’ and he replied ‘Yes, but I started at around your age’ so he said that, when I finished school, I should ring him and there’d be a job for me. After that, I couldn’t wait to finish school and, at the age of 16, I left school and went straight to him to start my apprenticeship.
ANTON MOSIMANN’S ENCOURAGEMENT TO PUSH MYSELF TOOK ME ALL OVER THE WORLD
Whilst I was at The Dorchester, Anton Mosimann took over. When he arrived, he was the Premier Sous Chef on the pastry so I’m one of the few people who saw him as the premier, not the head chef. Anton was very competition orientated and inspired me to enter lots of competitions myself. I loved it and it helped me to progress. I soon won a travel scholarship and asked him where my career should go. I went to St. Moritz, Monaco, Japan and many other places. He helped me and, when I first got offered the hotel in St. Moritz, I’d never heard of it before so I asked him ‘Is it any good?’ and he said to me ‘Any good? Any good? It’s the hotel that I started at’, which made me smile. That was in 1978 and I was the first English person they’d ever employed. In those days, they didn’t feel like English people worked very hard – we were stereotyped as ‘Have a cup of tea. Have a break. Have a cup of tea.’ It was hard work there but I wanted to prove a point.
BEING A CHEF IS IN MY BLOOD. IT EXCITES ME.
I still love being a chef. It’s in the blood really. I think there are a few reasons…
‘You eat with your eyes to the dishes have to deliver on all levels.’
One of the best memories I have was winning the Cateys – Hotel Chef of the Year (more than 250 covers). It’s like the Oscars of cooking. It was funny because, sometimes you wait all your life to win something like that. When I won it, I wanted to thank my team but they rarely let you say anything so, as I came back, everybody got so excited that they grabbed me and the award flew up into the air and broke into 10 pieces. It was made of bronze so I had to ring them and say ‘Look, I’m really sorry but there must have been a fault with your bronze award. The thing has collapsed and the lady has fallen off.’ It’s a bit like the Rolls Royce emblem. They said ‘Oh, yes, but you must keep all the parts because we’ll have to melt it again…’ I was thinking ‘Oh, God!’ but I think that’s one of my happiest memories - that and my first day of being accepted as an apprentice chef at The Dorchester because that’s something that I always wanted to be.
DUCKING & DIVING IN ST. MORITZ WITH THE FLYING FISH
I have a lot of great memories. One funny one happened when I was younger and working in St. Moritz. In those days, when you were in St. Moritz everybody spoke German, French, Swiss-Italian, Romanish… so many different languages and, until you’d been there a while, sometimes they could be difficult to understand.
We used to work with a chef called De Florian. One day, he said to my friend Nick ‘Get the trout, yah’ in a thick German accent. We were up in the mountains so everything had to travel up through Zurich. So, up it came and off Nick went and started to unload the trout. Suddenly, the chef ran over in a panic shouting ‘What are you doing? What are you doing?’ Nick said ‘I’m taking out the trout like you said’ and De Florian said ‘No I said count the trout’ but by that time we had about 30 blue trout flying everywhere. We were all trying to grab them but they were just flying everywhere. It was crazy.
They were funny, good times but a lot of hard work. It’s things like that that build character and make you a chef.
IF YOU ONLY EAT 1 DISH AT THE PODIUM, IT HAS TO BE…
Our signature dish: a passion fruit soufflé with six raspberries and a coulis in the bottom, served with a delicious sorbet. It’s what I think represents my team the most… it’s light, bright and passionate.
MY FAVOURITE POSITION IN THE KITCHEN
I really enjoy working with chocolate. There are so many amazing things you can do with it and, technically, it's a real skill. I like to collaborate with other chefs too. We often collaborate on events with Michelin starred chefs like Sat Bains, Michel Roux, Pierre Gagnaire, Gary Rhodes and we all learn a lot from each other. We see what they do for individual covers and try to formulate a way to replicate it for a banquet with 1000 people. Then they see what we do too and it's a good combination.
MY ULTIMATE COMFORT FOOD
I like very simple food. Steak and chips - a nice medium-rare fillet steak and fresh crunchy chips with a fluffy middle.
I prefer to dine at places that are recommended because I know they’re going to be good. I don’t get many days off so, if I’m going to eat out somewhere, I want to know that the food and atmosphere is sure to be good, and that I’m going to enjoy myself. That’s why I like Hakkasan and Nobu, which are next door to here. I like Scalini too. It’s an Italian restaurant and, whenever I go there, it’s like going back to when I did my apprenticeship in 1974. The food, the waiters, the atmosphere… the food is always wholesome and good, and I have a great time.
For places that aren’t touristy and a bit off the beaten track, ohhhh there are some very nice places. I always enjoy exploring restaurants up mountains. They’re always very good. The food’s always been cooked really well, with lovely fresh ingredients, and the views are idyllic. It’s lovely. Sometimes as a chef, you’re not always going just for the food, you’re going for the view. I went to this fantastic restaurant. It was right on the sea. The food was normal but you just felt like you were in paradise. I love Thailand and places like that too because the street food is just fantastic. I mean, the satay chicken, OMG! It tastes fantastic and it’s so cheap.
Anthony Marshall is the Executive Chef at The Hilton Hotel, Park Lane.