Origins of Ben Murphy

After an injury ended his footballing dreams, Ben turned to cooking, training at Westminster Kingsway, then working in some of the world’s finest kitchens. Here he shares the people, places and dishes that shaped him

Mini bio

At 16, and with a trial lined up at Queens Park Rangers, Ben Murphy’s future seemed set… Then a broken collarbone forced him to change direction. Taken under the wing of Pierre Koffmann during his time at The Berkeley, Ben found himself in the Michelin-starred kitchens of southern France, Paris and New York before returning to London, where he now presides over the acclaimed Launceston Place. Interview by Neil Davey

Pierre Koffmann

I worked with Pierre for four and half years. I started the week after he opened Koffmann’s at The Berkeley. He’d come out of retirement, and wasn’t doing the three-Michelin-star La Tante Claire thing – it was his signature comfort food, brasserie food. I don’t know where I’d be without the direction he gave me. At college, we learned the base of culinary French gastronomy and he taught me why we learnedthat – I did a year of pastry, where I was doing soufflés constantly. Last year, we had a soufflé on the Launceston Place menu, so I like to think there’s an element of Pierre shining through my cooking. We had a really good friendship, and still talk regularly.

My grandmother Phyllis

My upbringing was very basic – go-to meals were things like pre-made lasagne or turkey dinosaurs, but I was always grateful and didn’t take it for granted. But neither my grandmother, nor my mum, played any part in my cooking background. My grandmother, Phyllis, would cook bacon or the odd scone every now and again but it’s nothing like I’m doing now! As a kid, though, I used to play draughts with her and those memories inspired our menu, which is in the style of a draughts board – you use checkers to cover the dishes you don’t want.

Les Prés d'Eugénie – Michel Guérard

Pierre Koffmann asked me what I wanted to do next. He had contacts and France was the easiest – and he actually drove me to Les Prés d’Eugénie – Michel Guérard! His mum was living in Gascony, so he just dropped me off. I went from three Rosettes to three Michelin stars. I didn’t speak any French (aside from swear words) and I wanted to come home… But, in the end, it was honestly the best experience of my life. I did a year there and built a really good friendship with the head chef, Olivier Brulard.

Epicurean and Éric Fréchon

Olivier knew the stuff I was bringing to the table was a little more modern than what Michel Guérard was about, and he sent me to Paris. I enjoyed Paris a lot –it was very similar to London and I felt more comfortable being back in the city. Epicure was incredible; it was food I was really interested in, a modern take on what I’d learned in the south of France.

Seasonal food

Most individual ingredients don’t particularly inspire me, but I love summer, I love spring. Wild garlic and lamb. Morels. And then summer, with the strawberries and the tomatoes… We already have dishes we’re working on for that time of year, so we can be ahead of the game and make an impact: a lot of fine dining restaurants are quite competitive, of course.


Celeriac is, I think, a very underrated vegetable. One of our signature dishes is celeriac with mint and black truffle, and then at the table they shave fresh pecorino cheese over it: the cheese is quite salty, so that’s what seasons the dish. It’s a great dish, a favourite of our guests.

My team

I like to use the best ingredients I can get my hands on and I have good relationships with my suppliers. I trust them – you have to have trust. For instance we have shellfish dishes on the menu but I’m allergic to shellfish, so I’ve never tasted them. They’re all by my head chef Mark Tolentino, who’s been with me for over five-and-a-half years.

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