Today, I had the opportunity to interview David Piffre about his journey from the outskirts of Champagne to Bisto de Paris in Copenhagen. David is remembered fondly for his legendary Patisserie on Oehlenschlægersgade in Vesterbro.
Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule, David. You recently told me that you will be celebrating 31 years as a qualified chef on 1st July. Can you tell me a little about your education and where you have worked?
I was educated in a private cooking school in Champagne, where I learned classic technique, cutting, preparation, identification of the raw ingredients, the organisation of the French kitchen and discipline, all under the critical eye of professional French chefs and cooks. Usually, this education is 4 years but as I was already working in restaurants on weekends and during the holidays, I skipped the basic classes and managed to graduate in 2.5 years.
After graduation, I immediately left to work as a young cook in Luxembourg and then I moved to Amsterdam where I worked as a chef. Afterwards, I had to return to France for my Military Service and I was sent to Germany for 12 months, and I had nothing to do with the kitchen for this period. As I was a good soldier, I was rewarded by getting a job in the Ministry of Defense in Paris, which was a little boring so I only stayed for 6 months before moving to Lausanne. After Switzerland, I moved to Florida and then Barbados, where I met the wonderful creative author, Rosemary Parkinson, whom I helped with her book, "Culinaria - The Caribbean". In Barbados, the ingredients that I was vaguely familiar with were used in a completely different way from what I had been used to and here I learnt about variety and the magic of the Caribbean cuisine.
I know that you are from Champagne, but can you tell me about what it was like to grow up there?
Champagne is best known for the production of the sparkling white wine that bears the region’s name. EU law and the laws of most countries reserve the term "Champagne" exclusively for wines that come from this region located about 100 miles (160 km) east of Paris. I was used to having agricultural farmers all around me, and as my father was a builder he was offered the best meat and vegetables in exchange for helping the farmer with their building reparations, as bartering was the currency of choice. You have to remember this was before there were supermarkets in the suburbs or main cities!
I know that you are the "main man" at the Bistro, so I know that you are here quite often, but what do you do for fun?
It all depends on the season, the time of the year. In the winter time, I do not do anything, it's my hibernation time, I just stay home and relax. Sometimes it's possible for me to travel to a sunny destination, and when I have this opportunity, I usually choose Asia as I have a lot of very good friends in Bangkok. During the spring/summer, I love to bicycle, a trip of 40 or 50km on my city bike, taking it easy, observing, is a wonderful way to spend my day off in the Copenhagen sunshine.
Who was your childhood hero?
Zorro was my idol. He was my idol, the black clothes, the horse, the mask - he was the man. I am still a big fan, today if I can see the series or the movie it still makes me happy and calms me down.
What is the most exciting thing right now, it could b in your personal or professional life?
My new pizza truck project. My good friend died two and a half years ago and his widow is alone with 7-year-old twins, she cannot manage his food truck business, so she asked me if I would like to help her and of course, I said yes!
What are you most looking forward to in 2018?
I would be really pleased if I can get the empty room next to my apartment, I have been trying to get this additional room for 10 years now. And I hope that this is the year where I get the extra room from the building as I would like to build a new bathroom.
What was the best thing to happen to you in 2017?
There were many good things that happened last year, but I think that my best friend got married. I never ever expected her to get married, so it was a big surprise and am so extremely happy for her. The wedding reception was here at the Bistro de Paris and they had a great party, it was so much fun. The Bistro can be hired for private events, weddings, confirmations, christenings, birthday parties, etc., so please contact us if you are interested.
In your opinion, how can you create and deliver a deeper connection with your customers?
I am not sure we can make a better experience for our clients, when they arrive here they are greeted with eye contact and made to feel genuinely welcome. I am confident that the food we serve to eat and drink is the best value for money experience you can get in Copenhagen. It's fresh, it's home-made, there are no hidden agendas, so it pleases me when the clients say it was a nice evening and they can leave satisfied. Sometimes I even get a hug and I feel really good and this is what breeds confidence. We have recently started a Newsletter to keep our customers updated on the events and offers at the Bistro.
With regards to Bistro de Paris, how can you continually evolve and grow?
Maybe opening at lunchtime?
When people are not used to going to restaurants on a regular basis, the Bistro is good value for the price and quality. It's simple food, but using the same raw ingredients as in the really expensive restaurants, the presentation may not be as fancy, but it is exactly the same products. 97% of our clients are very happy with the prices, DKK 300 for a 3-course meal and 2 glasses of wine is outstanding value for money.
Many people confuse a "Bistro" with "Gastro" restaurant, a Bisto is a place where you eat quickly, as they say in Danish a "spisested". It's simple, the menu is on a blackboard and we cross it off the menu when it is sold out, just like it is when you travel in France. The walls are painted yellow like a Bistro from the 1950's, 60's, the lamps, the pictures/posters on the wall gives an authentic feel to the place. Quality wines at reasonable prices
What's the most important thing I should know about you?
I am a really honest person that tries to treat people fairly, I do not play tricks or try to deceive. When I like someone I smile and on the other side, when I am in doubt about their intentions I try to leave the situation without creating a fuss.
Bistro de Paris · Vesterbrogade 19 · 1620 Copenhagen V · T: (+45) 33 33 82 22
The Fashion Talks is a one-day conference about the fashion industry where we want to touch on the difficulties but also the opportunities in the fashion industry nowadays. Different topics will be brought on stage by a wide variety of national and international speakers.
The main idea of the speeches is that these are 'inspirational pitches' about each speakers' speciality. We want to inspire the audience to be more entrepreneurial, more creative and innovative in the way they do business.
In a way, it is about sharing your vision on how the industry will evolve in the future with a focus on your speciality domain. Every speech preferably has a practical approach (to make it more lively) stated with examples, images and numbers (wherever possible).
We would like you to touch on how to work with and motivate a fashion team; how the creative department, the sales team, the production team etc… can work together and stay motivated.
PRESS RELEASE (English text)
According to you, can a young independent fashion label keep up with the competition of larger, more established fashion companies and international fashion chains? And what would be the 'key to success'?
In general, it will always be difficult for a young independent fashion label to keep up with the competition of fashion chains and more established fashion companies for an obvious reason - Economy. The economy of small companies means that they struggle to have the resources to pay for the basic things to keep the company afloat, therefore, choices have to make - Catwalk show or trade fair? Silk or crepe de chine? With no marketing budget, it's hard to compete when speaking about paid media.
The key to success for young independent fashion labels is online via social media. As plagiarism is rife in the fashion industry, social media has established a more level playing field, which has given the young independents an opportunity to make a name for themselves before the more established companies have the opportunity to react.
Which fashion week's gain importance worldwide? E.g. in Asia, and the Middle East – these regions are upcoming in fashion…?
The big four (London, Milan, Paris and New York) will always be at the forefront when speaking about the importance of fashion weeks. Why? Traditionally, this is where the big designers show their couture collections and where the media focus the majority of their attention. Tokyo is the gateway into Asia, but I have never seen the media coverage in the West to make me think that Tokyo should be added to the "big 4".
With regards to the Middle East, they are consumers rather than trendsetters in my opinion. Perhaps, this will change in the future, but for now, it's all about their buying power.