The Michel-in Starred Man

Michel Roux Jr. speaks to about Michelin stars, Masterchef and making the most of a student budget

PhotoCredit:Shelley Sofier

PhotoCredit:Shelley Sofier

Michel Roux Junior was born into a family of great chefs and soon followed in their footsteps, quickly making a name for himself in the UK restaurant scene. He owns several restaurants, including Le Gavroche, which currently has two Michelin stars. Although Roux is famous in the culinary world for his restaurants, he is also well known in television thanks to his appearances on MasterChef:The Professionals, Food and Drink and Great British Food Revival.

I was definitely born to be a chef. I was born into a great family of chefs. My father Albert, uncle Michel and cousin Alain are highly acclaimed chefs, and my daughter Emily is following in our footsteps.

When I was a child both my mother and father were cooks for the Cazalet family. One of my earliest food memories are the smells coming from the Fairlawne kitchen—pastry, sugar caramelising and stews—I would be playing under the table while my mother Monique prepared the meals.

I think generally juggling commitments is my biggest challenge. Making sure that I can spend enough time at Le Gavroche whilst filming, making appearances at food events, and overseeing our other restaurants, plus of course spending time with the family, which can be tricky as chefs have to work such long hours.

I took over Le Gavroche in the early 90s. It was the time that my father and I felt that I was ready, but it was certainly tough, probably the toughest time in my life. In terms of the food, I couldn’t bring myself to do a complete change, I had too much respect for what my father and uncle had built up over the years, so I always felt that Le Gavroche had to continue on as it was under me. I have definitely clashed with my father a few times over the years when I’ve wanted to bring in new dishes or ideas to the business, but mainly we have a very good relationship. As I mentioned, my daughter Emily is a chef, and although she isn’t cooking in the UK at the moment, I would love to think that one day she would be interested in coming into the family business.

Of course, having two Michelin stars is very important. It’s wonderful for our food and service to have this international recognition. I think there is too much pressure put on restaurants in the Michelin star arena, but much of this is self-inflicted. I’m not chasing the third star, if it comes it comes, but I’m very pleased that my cousin Alain is cooking under three stars at The Waterside Inn, he’s a wonderful chef and it’s a great experience to eat there.

My father and I work very closely on a number of projects, not just Roux at the Landau. We work well together; I have enormous respect for his judgement and knowledge. I also run Roux at Parliament Square, and my father operates a number of Roux restaurants in Scotland. There will be more Roux openings, but there will only ever be one Le Gavroche!

It’s very difficult to become a chef at a top restaurants. Starting off at a catering college is a good option, and then progress through as many stages as you can – working in restaurants around the world to build up your experience.

My favourite part about working on Masterchef: The Professionals was helping people to discover just how much they’re capable of achieving. It’s very important to me that we discover and nurture the best possible talent.
I would recommend Salade Lyonnaise for students on a budget. The French are very good at getting the most flavour out of low cost ingredients, and that is one of my favourite dishes.

Out of my books, I’d recommend The French Kitchen for students to buy. It’s good home cooking.

There is no reason at all why more female chefs shouldn’t receive every accolade going. In our kitchen, there is no difference at all in the performance or dedication of male and female chefs. We have three female chefs in our kitchen. Our head chef is Rachel Humphrey, and our two sous chefs are Monica, as you know, and Renee Miller.

It was an honour to be involved in the relaunch of the BBC show Food and Drink. The original programme inspired many and with Britain’s appreciation for good food having grown so much in the last 30 years, it was a great way for me to explore fantastic food and drink with old and new friends.

I think that greater originality is going to be the key to holding people’s attention for culinary TV. But there seem to be too many gimmicky programmes finding their way onto the screen. I would hope that there will be more documentary-style culinary programmes helping people find out more about culinary history, and the great diversity of wonderful ingredients that we can use, and also opportunities to help people discover the great joy that cooking and eating well can bring them.

My wife is a great cook. I’m very happy for her to prepare a meal for me when I get home!

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