Dial "M" for good taste in London

Anton Mosimann is still fit and cooking after all these years

The initial of Switzerland's most celebrated chef Anton Mosimann is the only thing to adorn the private dining club frequented by members of London's high society.

This content was published on February 28, 2007 minutes

Mosimann, who has been for decades a standard bearer for Swiss quality and an ambassador for good taste, told swissinfo about his career, his passion for food and his future.

As you enter the club, there is a red M for "Mosimann's" on the door. But it's also printed on the establishment's matchboxes as well as the cooks' uniforms.

The 60-year-old himself is omnipresent, with portraits everywhere. There are photographs of him posing with a series of illustrious guests: Kofi Annan ("a good person" he says), Elton John, Yasser Arafat, Bill Clinton, Jordan's Queen Rania ("what a super woman"), Bob Geldof and members of the British royal family, including the Queen and Prince Charles.

Mosimann usually greets each guest personally, dressed in his white uniform and trademark bowtie. He has 300 "short ties", as he calls them, and even wears one while cooking.

Around 2,500 members belong to his club, located in the Belfry, a former Presbyterian church in London's classy Belgravia district. The well-heeled clientele, which includes prominent Swiss, can withdraw to private rooms for an intimate tête-à-tête or business lunch.

Hometown market

As a boy, Mosimann developed an interest in cooking while growing up in his parents' restaurant in Nidau, on the outskirts of Biel in canton Bern, where he enjoyed accompanying his father to market. After serving an apprenticeship in a local hotel, he slowly worked his way through the kitchens of various top-class Swiss establishments.

He then embarked on a global tour of the restaurant business - 75 different towns and cities – before settling in London in 1975.

For his contribution to the food industry, Mosimann received in 2004 the "Order of the British Empire", awarded to very few foreign nationals.

He attributes his business success to a combination of luck and hard work. "I work 12- to 15-hour days. Gratification comes from pleasing my guests."

Besides the Belfry, the star cook also runs a party service, a chef's academy, and has published a dozen cookbooks to add to his astounding collection of 6,000 gathered during his extensive travels. "It includes very old, first editions, which are kept in a bank safe."

But not everything Mosimann touches turns to gold. The opening of a private dining club in Switzerland based on his London model was a failure. After only three years, he had to close the doors of the "Château Mosimann".

Making mistakes

"Making mistakes is a part of life. We wouldn't appreciate the sun if it shone every day," Mosimann says before quickly changing the subject.

But he remains a high flyer, continuing to travel the globe, and wherever he finds himself, seeks out the local food market. "I am inspired by the quality of the produce on offer."

He has just returned from a trip to Cuba. "I wanted to see where Cuban cigars are made." In Sweden, it was fish. "I'm a fan of herring."

The master chef runs daily, and watches what he eats, preferring an Asian diet, particularly Japanese cuisine. "But I eat everything – that's what I was raised to do."

He always returns to London from one of his frequent visits to Switzerland with black pudding and liver sausage, or occasionally tripe. And once a month, he prepares eel in a Chinese sauce. "Like at Christmas," he remarks.

Mosimann says he is now ready to slow down. His two sons will enter the business later this year after gaining experience abroad. Both are graduates of Lausanne's prestigious hotel school.

Then, Mosimann says, he will have more time to spend at his second home on the shores of Lake Geneva. His "soft spot", as he calls it.

swissinfo, based on a German article by Gaby Ochsenbein

Key facts

Belfry address: 11B West Halkin Street, Belgravia, London
The club was founded in 1946.
It currently has 2,500 members, who pay an annual fee of £500 (SFr1,250).
The Belfry is located in a former Presbyterian church.

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Anton Mosimann was born on February 23, 1947 in Solothurn. He grew up in Nidau on the outskirts of the town of Biel in western Switzerland.

He did his apprenticeship at the Hotel Bären in the village of Twann. As a young chef, he worked in various first class hotels in Switzerland, France, Japan, Sweden, Italy, Canada, Japan and Belgium.

He arrived in Britain in 1975 and later became head chef at age 28 of London's Dorchester Hotel. Since 1988, he has run the exclusive club, Mosimann's, in the Belfry, located in London's Belgravia district.

He was awarded the "Order of the British Empire" by Queen Elizabeth in 2004.

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