I can raise £250,000 for charity by cooking one meal!
LEGENDARY French chef Pierre Koffmann says investing in a pension when he was young is one of the best decisions he has ever made. The 73year-old, one of the few chefs in the UK to have ever been awarded three Michelin stars, told DONNA FERGUSON he started saving for his retirement 40 years ago and is now reaping the rewards. His cooking is so sought after he can raise up to £250,000 for charity by making a single meal. He recently filmed a 25-lesson course on classic French Bistro cooking for BBC Maestro. Visit www.bbcmaestro.com for more information. What did your parents teach you about money? Q A NEVER to buy anything unless you can afford it. I grew up in France, in a town called Tarbes in the foothills of the Pyrenees. We were a working-class family. My father was a mechanic for Citroen while Mum was a traditional stay-at-home mother. Money was tight, but as a young boy I didn’t really think about it. What was important was spending time with my friends and doing sport. There was always enough food on the table and my parents gave me pocket money so I could go to the cinema and buy sweets at the bakery. I never asked for anything else. Have you ever struggled to make ends meet? Q A NO, never, because I refuse to spend more money than I earn. But there have been times in my life when I have had to work hard to survive. For example, when I came to England in 1970 and started working as a chef for La Gavroche, I was poor. As well as working from 1pm to 11pm at La Gavroche, I worked from 8am to noon in another French restaurant called Le Francais. I earned about £12 a week in total which allowed me to pay my rent and occasionally go back to France to see my family. It didn’t feel like a struggle because I had no love of money. I earned enough to have a good life and go out with friends and girlfriends and that was what mattered. I worked hard, not for the money, but to get experience and learn new recipes. I knew the money would come later on. Have you ever been paid silly money? Q A NOT personally. But I have taken part in charity auctions where I have offered to cook a meal and people have donated a lot of money for that privilege. The largest amount anyone ever paid was £250,000 for me to go to Scotland and cook a meal for them and their ten friends after they had spent the day shooting. I can’t even remember what I cooked, but I do remember providing them with some splendid wine. What was the best year of your financial life? Q A PROBABLY this year. Three years ago, I started a potato business working with farmers and selling their produce to chefs. Last year, when everything went quiet during lockdown, we developed frozen French fries. Now we are selling a lot of them, and many top chefs – from Gordon Ramsay to Marco Pierre White – have started buying. Business is booming and it’s been a good year so far. The most expensive thing you have bought for fun? Q A IN 1973, I purchased a blue Maserati Khamsin. I was stupid and paid £8,000 for it, which is like spending £25,000 on a ten-yearold car today. It required a lot of maintenance over the years, but I had some good times and it was a good investment. I sold it about a year ago for £80,000. What is your biggest money mistake? Q A INVESTING in a food business with a friend. We produced foie gras and everything that can be prepared with duck. It didn’t work out and I lost all my money: a few thousand pounds. The best money decision you have made? Q A SETTING up my potato business because we are doing so well. Do you save into a pension? Q A NOT any more. I started saving into one 40 years ago and I’ve got a good pension as a result. It’s one of the best things I’ve done in my life. I’m 73, so I am now taking my pension and enjoying it. I think it’s important to think about your future when you are young. You have got to because you cannot survive on Government money. The day you stop working, you still have the same bills. If you start saving into a pension early, it’s an easy thing to do. Do you invest directly in the stock market? Q A NO, I have a financial adviser who looks after my investments. He keeps me well informed, but I’m not interested in the funds he invests in on my behalf. The only thing that concerns me is the number at the end. Do you own any property? Q A YES, I own my home, a twobedroom flat overlooking the canal in Little Venice, West London. We bought it 15 years ago for £130,000 after our children left home. I hope it’s gone up in value since then because everything else has, but I don’t know. We are not going to move any time soon. One little luxury you Q treat yourself to? A I CANNOT start the day without a cup of coffee, so every morning I go to the same coffee shop and have a cappuccino. For me, it’s one of life’s pleasures. If you were Chancellor what would you do? Q A I WOULD reduce income tax. If you overtax people, they have less money to spend. If you cut taxes, people will spend more money and then the Government will get more money in taxes – and everybody will be happy. What is your number one financial priority? Q A TO look after my family. I want to pass on an inheritance to my children – and to help them make a good start in life.