Interview with Michel Roux: Michelin star chef talks about food photography and the future of restaurants | The Independent

The French chef and restaurateur Michel Roux senior died, aged 78, at his family home in Berkshire.

The news was announced by the family in a statement by his son and two daughters, who said: “It is with deep sadness that the Roux family announced the passing of our beloved grandfather, father, brother and uncle, Michel Roux OBE .

Born in France in 1941, Michel and his brother Albert, moved to the UK and opened Chelsea’s Le Gavroche restaurant in London in 1967, becoming the first three-Michelin-star restaurant in Britain.

Together they started a wave of classical French cooking that quickly gained popularity in London and across the UK. Their restaurant changed how people ate, which was usually in hotels at the time, and opened the way for London’s food scene. It also attracted royals and celebrities and soon became a place to see.

In 1984, the brothers went on to establish the Roux Scholarship, a culinary competition to help chefs in the UK, where the winner would get a three -month placement working with top chefs. It is now run by their children Alain Roux and Michel Roux Jr.

Michel Roux senior went on to carve out a lifelong career in food, from writing books to teaching and as a TV presenter.

Here, we revisit our interview with the chef that was first published to coincide with the release of his book Cheese in 2017.

What do you think of your nickname, the godfather of modern restaurant cuisine?

The “godfather” pushes it, but I think “God” is probably too far away! But seriously, I had to put right in a chef who thought I wrote a book about Jesus when in fact, my new book was called Cheese! Of course, the nickname is flattering and I think comes from the hundreds of chefs we’ve trained over the years at Le Gavroche and The Waterside Inn.

After you modernize the British restaurant scene, how do you think the restaurants will change in the future?

When we came to the UK, food was not a conversation we could engage in. We came here in the hope of switching on the light, and now we are being blinded! Now people can see that they are desperate to see the whole world! It’s surprising and inspiring, there are so many starts, only in London can you sample cuisine from every corner of the world, knowing where change will follow us.

Michel Roux (left) and brother Albert celebrate 25 years of La Gavroche


Do you think more restaurants could ban people from taking pictures of their food?

This is a matter for every restaurant to decide. For me, this is whether you want customers or surgeons to eat at your restaurants. Now, people don’t just want to eat dishes, they want to discover them and perform post mortems on everyone. But it can bring stress to the dining room and present a risk to people’s privacy as they eat.

Why did you and your brother decide to move to the UK?

In terms of food and dining out, the UK is in a dark age. We ended up pointing the way forward knowing that we would face either a quick death or quick victory. Fortunately, this is the right time. Now, in restaurant terms, we’ve been to the Moon and Mars, all in 45 years.

What did you think about British food when you first came here?

Although the food scene in general is almost non-existent, we both fell in love with the Afternoon Tea tradition and still adore the range of cakes and pastries, such as the treacle tart and scone with jam and cream and more. .

Albert and son Michel Roux Junior


Who taught the two of you to cook?

Our father and grandfather are both charcutiers in France so we are destined to cook, it’s in our genes. But I appreciate my mother, Germaine, who is an inventive, natural cook. She raised us during the War so we learned to take care of and inspire her with her simple, but delicious cooking based on sparse, humble ingredients.

What was it like to open a restaurant in Sloane Square at just 26?

It was a bit scary when people like Princess Margaret first visited. He would almost send me on the flight as he walked straight to me at the reception and went straight to his desk, leaving me in if he had a reservation. The same happened with the Rolling Stones. With their long hair and lack of a tie, I almost sent them packing! I didn’t know who these people were, at the time. So, there are challenges that will start as we adjust to life at Chelsea.

Did you enjoy your son and nephew continuing the business you and Albert created in the UK?

We were blessed, especially, because my son, Alain and Albert’s son, Michel Jr. chose to work with us of their own accord. It was a dream come true.

What do you owe your three Michelin stars?

In our restaurants, there is a more consistent evolution than any revolutions. Further, I awarded it with constant attention to detail, consistency, complexity and having an outstanding team around us.

Do you think Michelin stars still deserve recognition in the industry? Or do you think other forms of evaluation can overtake the ranking system?

Michelin has built its reputation over a hundred years so by now, it is the most respected and respected guide. Bloggers will come and go but as far as profession and gastronomy are concerned, Michelin has few competitors.

What do you expect next for the Waterside Inn and La Gavroche?

I just hope we continue to build on our success and hopefully maintain our position among the best restaurants in the face of stronger competition.

The Waterside restaurant has three Michelin stars and recently banned people from photographing their food

Do you have plans to retire from cooking in the near future?

But I do not understand! The word “retire” is not in my vocabulary. I couldn’t stop cooking anymore like I couldn’t stop breathing!

Who cooks Christmas in your family?

My wife, Robyn and I share cooking between us. We also involve our guests so everyone chips in. I am so obligated to Christmas!

Is everything for Christmas dinner made in the beginning, or are there items you bought?

We always buy the best smoked salmon, caviar and oysters. I make a foie gras terrine to have once. We start at our table full of these delights then move on to canard à l’orange or grilled goose with apple sauce. These are some of our favorites to have at Christmas.

What is your favorite Christmas food tradition?

Certainly not turkey! It was Hen Pheasant à la Normande grilled and served with a creamy apple sauce flavored with Calvados. This is my classic Christmas dinner.

Albert Roux at La Gavrouche in 1989 (Rex)

(Rex Features)

What does your Christmas cheeseboard look like?

You should refer you to my new book Cheese My cheeseboard will always boast somewhere between 20 and 30 cheeses and a third of them are always British.

Is there a kitchen appliance or kitchen that you can’t live without?

A priest’s knife. Just like a scratching golfer who can hit par up to 18ika hole with a favorite 7 or 9 iron, I can prepare anything in the kitchen with a knife, be it meat, fish or vegetables.

Have you watched cooking programs like GBBO, Master Chef o Kitchen Saturday – so what do you think of them?

If I have the passion and time, I’m satisfied Kitchen Saturday, even though my friend, James Martin, never showed it. I particularly enjoyed James ’current TV series, French Adventure. I still like Keith Floyd’s shows and it’s great Kitchen Saturday is bringing them to a new generation. I have always enjoyed watching Rick Stein, his passion never fails to be encountered, he is a gifted chef and presenter.

What are you going to eat to cook for friends and family?

Always grilled chicken, a great free range bird, prepared with bread sauce and seasonal vegetables, you can’t beat it.

Who do you look to for inspiration, here and in France?

In the UK, I look no further than my Roux scholars. There are 34 of them now and many are one and two star Michelin chefs in their own right. As for France, I spend limited time there now so can no longer offer a fair opinion.

What advice would you give to aspiring chefs?

To learn to walk, walk and walk again before trying to run. This maxim is a great way of pointing out to aspiring chefs that they face a long journey. And it’s long, but it’s definitely beautiful!

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