The moment before meeting someone truly exceptional feels like a freshly tightened violin string waiting to create its first sound. When we walked into Mosimann’s Club to interview Anton Mosimann himself, we were immersed in a symphony of thoughtfully curated details: multi-coloured chairs borrowed hues from the vibrant contemporary paintings hung around the oak-panelled walls, silver animal sculptures exchanged glances from elegantly set tables, and below the high ceiling of this impressively converted 19th century church, waiters in waistcoats confidently attended delighted diners. At the heart of the place was the rhythmic dance of bright and fresh plates of food – the chef’s signature Cuisine Naturelle. With his complete rejection of oil, butter and alcohol, Anton Mosimann revolutionised British cooking. The notorious TV presenter and gourmand Loyd Grossman potently commented, “The history of food in Britain divides neatly into two periods – before Mosimann and after Mosimann.”
When we met Anton Mosimann in the entrance foyer, his attentive hand-shake and caring eyes reassured us that in this sanctuary of taste we will be able to talk about a world far removed from luxury. After all, it is at Mosimann’s that, for the past 16 years, Create has hosted its annual fundraising Gala.
Once we sat down in a private dining room, one of Britain’s most acclaimed chefs genuinely entreated, “please, call me Anton”. Respect, honesty and hard work are at the heart of Anton’s incredible success story. “At 16 or 17 I got my first apprenticeship, and there I had two head chefs. One was very polite and considerate; the other one was the complete opposite, shouting and screaming all the time, for no reason. There, I learnt how to do things and how not to do things. I said to myself that one day, when I am head chef, I will not allow screaming and shouting. I will keep things in control but calm.”
At 28 years old, Anton became the youngest ever Maitre Chef de Cuisines at London’s Dorchester Hotel. With the thoughtful attitude that he describes above, the young chef led his team to become the first hotel restaurant outside France to achieve a two star rating in the prestigious Michelin Guide.
“If one of my chefs makes a mistake, eight out of 10 times it’s my fault. It means I didn’t show them properly, I didn’t explain it, or I gave them the wrong ingredients. Just go back to the situation and ask ‘why did this happen?’, and be honest, say ‘I’m sorry that I didn’t explain this properly’. Why shout if it’s my own fault? You can only work as a team. Screaming and shouting creates a bad atmosphere. And it gives our profession a bad reputation.”
Anton Mosimann’s impressive career has led him to cooking in 75 countries around the world and winning over 50 Gold Medals in culinary competitions. The favourite chef among the political elite, Anton prepared the celebratory banquet for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. A museum named after him, The Mosimann Collection: a World Culinary Heritage”, has opened in Le Bouveret as part of the prestigious Swiss César Ritz Hospitality School. The educational space displays Anton’s unique collection of more than 6,000 historical cookbooks and menu cards, which is said to be the largest private collection of its kind, covering 500 years of cooking history. Anton’s dedication to culinary innovation has been recognised with the Order of the British Empire.
The culinary maestro’s advice for anyone dreaming of succeeding in a creative career is simple:, “Go the extra mile. The reason why I was able to come to London is because I won the first ever Nestlé Toque d’Or Award. Out of 40 points maximum I got 42 points, two points extra for my written effort. There was a famous chef in Switzerland, Adelrich Furrer, who read my interview in a magazine that covered the competition, my first ever interview. And he loved it. So he wrote to me and asked to meet. It took me six months to have enough courage to go to see him. We had a nice meal, he showed me his culinary books.
Three months later Furrer got a phone call from the Dorchester Hotel in London saying that they were looking for a Head Chef. They told him that they already tried three other candidates but none of them made it. And Furrer told them, “Well Anton Mosimann was here recently”. And so I got the job – all because of that competition. That’s why I always say, go for competitions, go the extra mile.”
“There is always something more to learn”, he adds. “Even once you have achieved a certain status – don’t be afraid to come down again just to learn a bit more about the different areas of your profession. I took backward steps in my career a few times. When I moved to Montreal in Canada, I worked my way up very quickly, became second chef of a huge hotel. Far too young for the position, a wonderful position – my own apartment, swimming pool, everything was there. But I said, “No, I can’t, I’m too young. I have to go back to Europe to learn more about the profession”. So I went back a few steps.
I went to work in the Gstaad Palace hotel. Knowing close to nothing about pastry, I decided to go back to the bottom and learn it from scratch. I started there as a Commis de Pâtisserie – an apprentice pastry maker. People thought I was mad but it was the best decision ever. When I went to the Dorchester a year later, I had 132 chefs in the kitchen and 32 pastry chefs. These pastry chefs were amazed to meet a new head chef who understood every aspect of the business”.
Creativity and fearless innovation are the driving force behind Anton’s passion for his work. “You give me a piece of leek and I think what can I do with it? You don’t have to be highly educated or hyper-intellectual to be creative, as long as you have the feel for it. It’s about finding the right direction for yourself. I wrote my book The Art of Anton Mosimann 30 years ago. Here, I first chose the plate and then created the food for it. Again, that’s creativity, being different. Black and white plates with colours on top. It’s simple but it’s creative.”
When it comes to charity, Anton commits to the causes he believes in with same “going the extra mile” attitude. “Making a difference is very much up to us”, he says about people with the ability and the privilege to help others. “It’s about taking the time, which I learnt from my parents. At Christmas, our family’s restaurant always had a party for the people who were lonely, because Christmas can be a very difficult time for lots of people.”
This year Create’s annual Gala Dinner, hosted by Anton Mosimann, was focused on raising funds towards working with participants suffering from mental ill-health. Read our blog post with Dr. Richard Corrigall, a consultant adolescent psychiatrist at Snowsfields Adolescent Unit, who comments on the relationship between mental health and creativity here.
In his philanthropic work, Anton concentrates on sharing his culinary and business experience with young talent. “I really loved our week-long project with Create a few years ago, in which we taught young carers from London how to develop a restaurant menu. We took them to Borough Market to get inspiration, and then at the end of the week they created a beautiful restaurant experience for 12 guests at the Mosimann Academy, serving a meal that had designed and cooked themselves. That was really fun!”
“Over the many years that we have worked with young people, we have had some very inspirational encounters. I remember two boys who were particularly motivated. They spent more time in the kitchen than they had to and were extremely eager to learn more.
In turn, we took the time with them – we went to the market together, explained how the food business works, showed them different kitchens. One of them had never held a knife in his hands before working with us! Today, they both have their own catering businesses.”
Last month Anton went to Burma to give a talk at a school for deaf children. In a fortnight, he is off to Scotland to teach at a cookery school for disadvantaged children in Glasgow. His tireless ambition to create a positive experience through cooking is a lesson that we can all take on board. Whether delighting royal guests at his iconic club in Belgravia or travelling the globe to empower others, Anton is a true embodiment of his own words:
We are very grateful to Anton Mosimann for his continuous support of our cause. Mosimann’s have hosted Create’s fundraising Gala Dinner annually for the past 16 years, helping the charity to raise over £750,000. Discover Anton’s exquisite approach to food on his private dining club’s website.