Maître Pâtissier de France MOF Paris 1976 Global Ambassador of 3 star Michelin: The Waterside Inn, Bray.
It is easy to forget that 35 years ago, when my brother Albert and I set up the Roux Scholarship, how little respect British chefs had in the cooking world. Our desire in those days was to give younger chefs coming through the ranks, not just in our kitchens but others too, an opportunity to see other kitchens in Europe and gain experience that they could bring back to this country.
That’s an important point. It was, and always will be, about creating a better pool of chefs in this country who can then, themselves, pass the torch onto the next generation. I am happy to say that this has proved true. Just look at Andrew Fairlie, our first scholar. He has risen to the top of the profession; he is a great teacher and a great ambassador, not just of the Roux Scholarship, but of cooking in general.
We thought long and hard about how the “stage” should work. It had to be a period in which the young chef could escape their normal job and life and immerse themselves in a different culture and a different style of cooking. We felt that you didn’t really get to the best bits until the third month. Month one and two were about settling down and getting into a routine not just personally but professionally too. But in month three, and I have seen this time and time again, something starts to click with the chef and it is them they realise why they are in the position they are in and they see themselves in a different light.
However, if we had made the stage longer then we could have run into real problems. It’s not just about the chef you have to remember. It’s also about his or her employer. It is important that they buy into as well. If we had made the stage six months then there may not have been a job to come back to or even a relationship issue.
So, we have considered very carefully the stage and what it can do and I can say that I am proud of all of our scholars and between them they have achieved great things. We are a family and we enjoy each others company and we like to help each other.
Don’t forget that they are still teaching me by their questions, their fears and their dreams and that is the point of the scholarship. It is about education but not just their education. It has also been about my education as well. Our culinary educational trips, which we host every two years, are a great example of this. Recently we’ve been to California, New York and Japan and before this Germany, Italy and South Africa to name just a few.