• Ben Murphy Chef De Partie Koffmann's
    • A day in the life of Koffmann’s chef de partie

      Ben Murphy may be only 21, but he’s already a rising star in the culinary world. Here, he talks about life in the busy kitchen at Koffmann’s, the Berkeley’s French restaurant, and what drives him to keep innovating in the kitchen.

      Setting the stage

      “A busy four hours”

      Our day at Koffmann’s is well structured. We have service twice a day, lunch and dinner. In the kitchen, we start work for each service four hours before the first dish is served. We spend the time preparing our mise en place – cleaning, cutting or preparing each sauce or ingredient we need for a finished dish.

      At the moment I am on fish, so that means I look after all the different fish and shellfish, plus the stocks, soups and garnishes that accompany them. One dish I prepare quite frequently is our new cod entrée. I steam the fish to order, and plate it in a consommé with saffron, fennel, broad beans, peas and red peppers.

      Performing under pressure

      “I’ve taken the competitive edge I experienced in football into the kitchen”

      I was originally training to become a football player. I only became interested in food when I was about 16, and I broke my collarbone. A family friend pointed me in the direction of the culinary arts courses at Westminster Kingsway College. I really loved my time there – I found that the speed and intensity of a professional kitchen mirrored what I enjoyed about football.

      When I was finishing at Westminster, Koffmann’s was just opening at the Berkeley. I sent in my CV, had an interview with Pierre himself and got the job. I have been here over two years now, and love it.

      Learning on the job

      “I take every single opportunity to learn something new”

      Coursework alone isn’t enough to help you succeed in a fine dining kitchen. You need to work with great chefs and learn their techniques along the way.

      In 2010, I went to New Zealand for a month. Don’t ask me what the place looks like because I worked in eight different restaurants and only got three days off! At every kitchen I tried to learn a new skill, that I could bring back with me.

      Pierre is an amazing chef to learn from. He’s very fair. If you hit his standards every time, he is happy. If you make a mistake, he will patiently explain where you have gone wrong. Just don’t make the same mistake twice – that can be a bit scary!

      When service is over

      “Winning competitions takes commitment, hard work, and a bit of luck”

      My culinary arts teachers encouraged me to put my competitive streak to work by entering culinary competitions. So when I’m not at Koffmann’s, I’m often in my mum’s kitchen, experimenting with new dishes and getting ready for the next big event.

      My best dish at the moment is a confit of salmon, which I developed for competition. It's prepared in a sous-vide, flavoured with lime and lemon, and served with pickled lemon zest and a langoustine and scallop mousse roll. I'm also working on a new duck dish that uses three different beetroot textures and goat's cheese. The rest is top secret until I enter my next competition.

      My competitive drive has helped me come out on top. In 2011 I took a gold medal for cooking at WorldSkills London and won ‘Young National Chef of the Year’. In 2012, I was crowned the UK’s ‘Spanish Chef of the Year’. I’m looking forward to my prize – a week in the Basque country working at Arzak, a three-star Michelin-starred restaurant.

      I think the skills I’m learning at Koffmann’s and in competitions will serve me well in the future, when I hope to own my own fine-dining restaurant. About 50 covers, a couple of Michelin stars – no pressure then!

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