Having worked with the Roux brothers, Pierre Koffmann and Marco Pierre White in his early days, Simon Cottard has now run the kitchen at Café du Marche in Clerkenwell for 20 years.
My dad, Jean Cottard, inspired me to be a chef when he opened the Waterside Inn with the Roux brothers and Pierre Koffmann as restaurant manager. I was 10 years old, and being a youngster in that mad environment gave me a buzz.
Pierre Koffmann always told me what a great industry this is. Back then, as the first head chef at the Waterside Inn, he was relatively unknown but very much respected.
The Rouxs taught me how to be a good kitchen manager. Their kitchens were run very military-like to a degree but there was never any bad language or acting up, they were just run very efficiently and by a gentleman. I’ve taken that style of leadership on board myself now.
You get the best out of people when you treat them correctly. By patiently teaching people and avoiding bullyboy tactics they tend to respect you more.
The hardest part of my job is getting young chefs to understand my train of thought. There are so many cuisine trends in the industry that it’s difficult to get them to adapt to our style of French classical cooking.
This French New York style cuisine that’s becoming popular is keeping us on our toes. I tell my chefs to keep their ears and eyes open for new ideas.
Clerkenwell’s restaurant scene is getting very competitive. With Restaurant Bruno Loubet and St. John’s in the area there’s a lot going on, but we’ve been here since 1986 and stick to what we’re doing so we’ll be okay.
I’ve been tempted to cook a different cuisine. We had Philippine and Indian chefs here before and we have learned from them. As a chef you have to be quite open minded and not a closed book because there’s more than one way of doing things.
Marco Pierre White is cashing out by cashing in on advertising deals. I take my hat off to him as he’s done well for himself, but the fame does go to the head sometimes. When the pound notes are dangling in front of you anyone in their right mind would take it, but it’s a shame really. I’d probably do it myself.
I’d like to improve pay and hours across the industry. People are working too many hours for little renumeration.