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.
Michel Roux, one of the greatest chefs of his generation, passed away on 11th March 2020. 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. For many, he was a father figure inspiring all with his insatiable appetite for life and irresistible enthusiasm; he had a mischievous sense of fun and his generosity and kindness knew no bounds. Across five decades, Michel’s restaurants have been training grounds for many of Britain’s stellar young chefs. In 1983, he established the Roux Scholarship, which year, after year, has changed the lives of hundreds of young chefs.
Michel was born in Charolles, Burgundy, France, and left school at 14 to become a pastry apprentice. After his three years at the Pastry Shop in Belleville there followed a couple of years as pastry cook at the British Embassy in Paris. Michel was then taken on as a commis in the kitchen of Cécile de Rothschild’s household, rising to be her youngest-ever personal head chef. He still cites that period as “a life-changing experience” and considers the peerless Baronne de Rothschild as his greatest influence: “She schooled me in perfection, which I live and breathe to this day.”
In 1967, he left his position as Head Chef for the Rothschild family, and headed 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.
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. Michel published 15 books that have sold more than 2.5 million copies worldwide, many of which are still the go-to publications for chefs around the world, not least those preparing for competing in the Roux Scholarship.
Indeed, the legacy of which he was most proud was the scholarship: it has enabled generations of chefs in Great Britain to train in the greatest restaurants in the world. It is the industry’s most acclaimed chef competition, with the scholars having gone on to pursue their many varied dreams, including winning Michelin stars of their own. It has helped Britain and Ireland’s chefs gain international recognition for four decades.
In a speech at the Culinary Institute of America in November 2014, as part of the Roux Scholarship educational trip to New York, Michel said of the Roux Scholars and to the young chefs:
The legacy of which I am most proud is here with me today. If I have inspired them, I have received even greater inspiration in return. 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.