Published: 05th December 2017
There's no swearing in my kitchen so Gordon Ramsay is not allowed inside: Anton Mosimann
Chef to the celebs Anton Mosimann talks about life at 70, cooking for Margaret Thatcher and why he wouldn't mind catering for Donald Trump if he asks nicely
Anton Mosimann is 70. If you're someone who loves number trivia, then this one's a doozy: He's about six months older than Independent India. So when it's time for us to sit down for a chat I offer (very graciously, I thought) to do it in the warmer climes of the coffee bar on the ground floor of the Montreux Music and Convention Centre. Less climbing, I figured.
After detaching himself from hordes of young hotel management students from Swiss Education Group who seem determined on filling their iCloud with selfies of him, he jogs up to me in his crisp black tux and says, "Let's go upstairs, then, shall we?" Before I have time to make the exertion argument, he bounds up the stairs and is almost out of sight before I get to the first bend. If I had a picture of that entire sequence, it would have been captioned 'Old age, my foot.'
I let food taste the way it is. In the sense, that, that is the Mosimann touch. Seasoning, cooking, everything is simple and subtle. I also ensure that there's absolute consistency. Even when other people are cooking your food. That's very hard. But I do it
Anton Mosimann, Chef
A chef who has cooked for more British Prime Ministers and American Presidents than you can count off your fingers, the head of a cookery academy, an author, avid rally enthusiast and someone who collects menus everywhere he goes (yes, everywhere), Anton Mosimann has clearly not heard of the concept of retirement. And he doesn't intend to. Travelling all over the world, meeting students, cookery lessons, checking in on his museum at the Cesar Ritz College, there's just way too much on his plate for him to slow down.
Excerpts from a rather tasty conversation:
Between your driving rallies and managing schools and your Club, do you get to cook these days?
Funnily enough, I do. I was at Zurich a few weeks ago and I was cooking at The Globus Delicatessen and I made risotto for the guests and I loved that feeling. I still get up in the morning and want to cook for guests.
A lot of cooks don't quite eat their own food. Do you?
I do! I enjoy eating my food, I cook my own food, I eat my own food. It's very light and fresh. I don't need masses of food, I run five times a week and do 5-6 km and my doctors are very happy.
You've cooked for five British Prime Ministers and I've heard that Margaret Thatcher was your favourite. What was she like?
The first PM I cooked for was Mrs (Margaret) Thatcher. She was a fantastically well-organised lady. She loved her food. She had François Mitterrand over and she thought her chefs weren't up to the mark. So she asked if I would come over to 10 Downing (Street) and cook. I was at the Dorchester then and I went over. She said to me, 'Oh and by the way, he likes veal steak,' and I said 'Madam, no problem.' So, I cooked and the meal went off very well. About three years later, I was invited to a private party and there was Mrs Thatcher and she said to me, "Anton, that was a fantastic meal you cooked but it was very expensive!' Typical Mrs Thatcher. She didn't miss a trick.
Indian Love Affair: I managed to have Bombay Duck, which was very good, and I got some tandoori chicken and a nice egg curry. I've been to India at least ten times, and it keeps changing every time. I love the culture and the people
Quite a few US Presidents have raved about your food. Would you cook for Donald Trump?
I cooked for his first wife Ivana Trump. (Smiles) If there's an opportunity I would love to.
Way before the William-Kate wedding, the Royal Family has been very fond of your cooking. How did that come about?
The Queen mother used to come to The Dorchester a lot in the late 70's and she loved my food because it was healthy and light and good-looking. That's how I got to know the whole family. Especially Prince Charles and Diana.
Diana's death must have been a shock to you
Diana was a very good friend. Her father was actually recovering at the hotel when he got out of the hospital. She was in my office every second day and said 'Anton, what can we cook for my father today?' so we got very close and had lots of cappuccinos together. She loved her food and came to my Club very often and ate the Risotto and Caesar Salad. I still think it's unreal the way she passed away.
Let's talk cooking. Today, eating light and fresh and organic are all the rage. What was it like when you started cooking without oil and butter three decades ago?
Let me go back a bit. I was working at the Palace Hotel in Switzerland many years ago and every day we would reduce cream 10:1, that's ten litres of cream reduced to 1 litre. And then there's fresh butter that we used to turn for every sauce. Very heavy. And incredibly unhealthy. Eventually, I created my own style called Cuisine Naturelle which has no butter, no oil and no alcohol. I wrote this in a book 28 years ago and it was ahead of its time. People used to wonder 'What's wrong with him?' but that's exactly what's in vogue these days, right? Healthy, simple food with no cream, butter or alcohol.
Is that something you tell young chefs and students then?
It is. Very often the flavour of fish or chicken is gone. You don't feel it or taste it because it's overpowered by the wrong ingredients in the sauce. I want a piece of fish from the lake, steamed for a minute, a few fresh herbs, a bit of tomato, a little black bean sauce and it's fantastic. And that's what I tried to tell people all those years ago.
When I met Jimmy Carter after dinner, he told me he loved my Bread and Butter Pudding. He said his wife loved it so much that they were wondering if I could make them a doggy bag. So I made a doggy bag for the two of them to take home to Atlanta. That's a good story!
Anton Mosimann, Chef
I have to ask, given the kind of yelling and screaming we see from chefs on TV, what are you like in the kitchen?
When I was an apprentice, I had two chefs - one was a real gentleman, — calm and well organised — and his assistant was just the opposite, shouting and throwing things around. I was 15 then and I said to myself 'I will be a chef one day and I will not allow any shouting and screaming in the kitchen at all.' When I came to The Dorchester, I told them 'Guys, from no shouting and screaming' and they said, "NO! That's part of the job' and I told them, "No it's not. I don't want any swearing whatsoever,' I don't allow it.
So Gordon Ramsay is not allowed in your kitchen?
No, he's not. Gordon Ramsey is not allowed in my kitchen. He'd be lost in there. That's right.
(The writer was in Montreux, Switzerland at the invitation of Swiss Education Group to attend their International Recruitment Forum)