Michel Roux, one of the greatest chefs of his generation, passed away peacefully last night surrounded by his family at home in Bray-on-Thames, Berkshire. He had fought a long and brave battle with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Often described as the godfather of fine dining in the UK, it is hard to overestimate the scale and positive impact Michel Roux has made within the global hospitality and culinary industry. It is a remarkable testament to an illustrious career and a brilliant character as family man, chef, restaurateur, author and teacher. Across five decades, Michel’s restaurants have been training grounds for many of Britain’s stellar young chefs.
Born in Charolles, Burgundy, France, Michel left school at 14 to become a pastry apprentice. In 1967, he left his position as Head Chef for the Rothschild family, heading to Britain. With older brother, Albert, Michel opened first Le Gavroche in London, followed in 1972 by The Waterside Inn in Bray, Berkshire. In the inaugural Michelin Guide, published in 1974, The Waterside Inn was awarded one star, then two in 1977 and three in 1985. It is the only restaurant in the world outside France to have retained three stars ever since, namely 36 years so far. Michel’s son, Alain has been Chef Patron since 2001. Le Gavroche was the first restaurant in the country to earn first one, two then three Michelin stars, awarded in 1982. It is now run by Albert’s son, Michel Jr.
Having won many accolades in his illustrious career, Michel was most proud of being awarded Le Meilleur Ouvrier de France, in 1976 by President Giscard d’Estaing, in Paris. This was the ultimate recognition of his work as a pâtissier-confiseur bestowing the honour of being considered one of France’s finest craftsmen in pâtisserie.
Since 1983, Michel Roux has published 15 books that have sold more than 2.5 million copies worldwide. But the legacy of which he was most proud is the Roux Scholarship, an annual chef competition, founded in 1982 with his brother to enable a new generation of chefs in Great Britain to train in the greatest restaurants in the world. It is the industry’s most acclaimed chef competition in the UK, with many scholars having gone on to win Michelin stars for themselves, helping UK chefs across four decades to gain international recognition.
In a speech at the Culinary Institute of America in November 2014, Michel summed up his message to young chefs: “As you go forth and spread your wings, remember, your time is limited, so do not waste a second trying to be anyone other than yourself and be in love with what you do. Be passionate or do not bother. Never stop dreaming … but be patient, do not run before you can walk and above all else, be determined and you will achieve your dream …it is waiting for you”.
Michel’s son Alain and daughters, Francine and Christine, on behalf of the family said: “It is with deep sadness that the Roux family announces the passing of our beloved grandfather, father, brother and uncle, Michel Roux OBE. The family would like to thank everyone for their support during his illness. While many of you will share our great sense of loss, we request privacy for the family at this difficult time.
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”.
There will be a private family funeral followed later in the year by a Celebration of Life event, details to be released in due course.