After hearing the deeply saddening news of Michel Roux’s death, the industry and nation have been paying tribute to the chef that changed the face of hospitality in the UK.
How did it all begin?
Michel Roux developed his passion for food by helping his mother in the kitchen. At 14, he became an apprentice to a grand pâtissier near Paris and spent three years learning the craft and honing his skills which led to him working as a pastry cook at the British embassy in Paris.
Taken on as a commis chef in the kitcheon of Cecile de Rothschild’s household, her youngest ever personal head chef, Roux excelled and over the years Michel and his brother Albert have engaged with various industry enterprises, starting their own catering service and opening a number of restaurants in London making their name known in the industry.
At just 26, Michel and his brother Albert opened Le Gavroche in London’s Lower Sloane Street in 1967. The restaurant became the first to claim three Michelin-starred status in Britain in 1982, making it iconic within the UK dining scene.
In 1972, the two brothers acquired the Waterside Inn in Bray, also awarded three Michelin stars. The pair separated their business interests with Albert taking over Le Gavroche and Michel running the Waterside Inn which he eventually handed over to his son, Alain.
The restaurant has kept its three-Michelin-starred status for 35 years, the only restaurant to accomplish this in the country.
Not only did the Roux brothers change the game amongst the UK restaurant sector, but in 1984 together they founded the Roux Scholarship competition. The competition allowed 50 young chefs to compete annually to win three months’ experience in a UK or European three-Michelin-starred restaurant of their choice. The idea was to inspire more young British chefs to develop and challenge their skills and change the perception European chefs has of the UK’s cuisine.
In a 2013 interview, Michel said:
“The idea was that if somebody won a competition and became a Roux Scholar, it gave them enough credibility so the chefs in France would not be able to refuse them. It gave us the chance to prove to the continent that there were some really promising young chefs in Britain.”
Since its launch, the competition has helped chefs including Andrew Fairlie, Andre Garrett, Sat Bains and Simon Hulstone kickstart their career and gain international recognition.
Michel Roux is a name renowned in the industry and an inspiration to so many chefs. He was presented with the Chevalier dans l’Ordre National du Merite by President Valery Giscasrd d’Estaing in 1987 and both Michel and Albert were awarded the Lifetime Achievement Catey award in 1995 acknowledging their legendary work in the industry.
Michel’s son Alain and daughters, Francine and Christine commented:
“We are grateful to have shared our lives with this extraordinary man and we’re so proud of all he’s achieved. A humble genius, legendary chef, popular author and charismatic teacher, Michel leaves the world reeling in his wake. For many, he was a father figure inspiring all with his insatiable appetite for life and irresistible enthusiasm. But above all, we will miss his mischievous sense of fun, his huge, bottomless heart and generosity and kindness that knew no bounds. Michel’s star will shine forever lighting the way for a generation of chefs to follow.”