Legendary French chef Pierre Kaufmann says investing in a pension when he was young is one of the best decisions he has ever made.
The 73-year-old, one of the few chefs in Britain to have ever been awarded three Michelin stars, told Donna Ferguson she started saving for her retirement 40 years ago and is now reaping the rewards.
His cooking is so in demand that he can raise up to £250,000 for charity by eating a single meal.
He recently filmed a 25-lesson course on classic French bistro cooking for BBC Maestro. For more information visit www.bbcmaestro.com.
Pierre Kaufmann started paying pension 40 years ago which was his ‘best decision’.
What did your parents teach you about money?
Don’t 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 mom.
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 sports.
There was always enough food on the table and my parents gave me pocket money so that I could go to the cinema and buy sweets at the bakery. I have never asked for anything else.
Have you ever struggled to meet your needs?
No, never, because I refuse to spend more money than I earn. But there were times in my life when I 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 1 a.m. to 11 p.m. at La Gavroche, I also worked from 8 a.m. to noon at another French restaurant called Le Française.
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 for money. I earned enough to live a decent life and go out with friends and girlfriends and that’s what mattered.
I worked hard not for money, but to gain experience and learn new recipes. I knew the money would come later.
Have you ever been given silly money?
not personally. But I have participated in charity auctions where I have offered to cook and people have donated a lot of money for that privilege.
The largest amount anyone has ever collected was £250,000 to go to Scotland after spending the day of shooting and cook for him and ten of his friends.
I don’t even remember what I cooked, but I do remember I gave them some great wine.
Pierre Kaufmann donated £250,000 for his cooking at a charity auction (stock image)
Which was the best year of your financial life?
Maybe this year. Three years ago, I started a potato business working with farmers and selling their produce to cooks. Last year, when everything calmed down during the lockdown, we developed frozen french fries.
We are now 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’ve ever bought for fun?
In 1973, I bought a blue Maserati Khamseen. I was stupid and paid £8,000 for it, which is like spending £25,000 on a car ten years old today.
It required a lot of maintenance over the years, but I had some good time with it and it was a good investment. I sold it about a year ago for £80,000.
What is your biggest money mistake?
Investing in a food business with a friend. We produced foie gras and everything made from duck. It didn’t work out and I lost all my money: a few thousand pounds.
Best money decision you’ve made?
Setting up our potato business because we are doing very well.
Do you save in pension?
Not any more. I started saving 40 years ago and as a result I have got a good pension. It’s one of the best things I’ve done in my life. I am 73 years old, so now I am taking my pension and enjoying it. I think it’s important to think about your future when you’re young.
You’ve had to do it because you can’t survive on government money. The day you stop working, you still have the same bills. If you start saving in pension early, it is an easy task.
Do you invest directly in the stock market?
No, I have a financial advisor who looks after my investments. He informs me well, but I am not interested in the fund he invests on my behalf. The only thing that worries me is the number at the end.
Do you have any property?
Yes, I have my own home, a two bedroom flat with a canal view in Little Venice, West London.
We bought it 15 years ago for £130,000 after our kids left home. I’d expect it to have gone up in value since then as everything else has, but I don’t know. We are not going to move any time soon.
One little luxury you adore yourself?
I can’t start the day without a cup of coffee, so every morning I go to the same coffee shop and drink coffee. For me, it is one of the pleasures of life.
What would you do if you were chancellor?
I will reduce income tax. If you tax people more, they have less money to spend.
If you cut taxes, people will spend more money and the government will get more money in taxes – and everyone will be happy.
What is your number one financial priority?
To take care of my family. I want to give my kids an inheritance – and help them get off to a good start in life.