Born into the Roux Family, there was never any doubt that Michel Roux Jr would cook. The son of Albert Roux, his early years were spent in Kent while his father worked as a private chef for the race- horse trainer Peter Cazalet and his family at their estate Fairlawne. Some of his earliest memories are playing under the table while his father and mother Monique prepared the meals; as well as going fishing and foraging for mushrooms and snails in the surrounding countryside with his family.
Michel left school at 16 to take up the first of many challenging apprenticeships, starting at Maître Patissier, Hellegouarche in Paris from 1976 to 1979. He was then Commis de Cuisine at Alain Chapel’s signature restaurant at Mionay near Lyon, Michel’s biggest influence. His military service was spent in the kitchens at the Elysée Palace at the time of Presidents Giscard d’Estaing and François Mitterrand. He also spent time at Boucherie Lamartine and Charcuterie Mothu in Paris, and the Gavvers Restaurant in London.
In 1984, he worked in Hong Kong at the Mandarin Hotel for six months to experience a different kind of cuisine, before returning to London to work at La Tante Claire, working for Pierre Koffmann, before joining the family business in 1985 first working at The Waterside Inn and then Le Gavroche. In 1991, he took over running Le Gavroche, gradually changing the style of cooking to his own, maintaining its classic French menu but with a lighter, modern twist.
Michel opened Roux at Parliament Square in May 2010 with Restaurant Associates, part of the Compass Group UK and Ireland. And in November 2010, he opened Roux at The Landau at London’s prestigious luxury hotel, The Langham.
Michel is a well-known personality on TV thanks to his work as a judge and presenter on several BBC and other TV stations, including Saturday Kitchen, Masterchef The Professionals and BBC Food and Drink.
He has been a judge for the Roux Scholarship since 1999, becoming co-chairman with his cousin Alain in 2016. Michel is passionate about training and developing future generations of chefs and has helped launch and supported the careers of hundreds of successful British chefs.
How has classic French food evolved since you began your career?
Classic French Food is timeless and will always be my go-to comfort food. Like all cuisines, it has evolved and like all great cuisines, will never die!
How does your TV work fit with your work as a chef?
My TV work was always secondary to my day job being a chef.
What other global cuisines do you enjoy cooking and eating?
I love all kinds of food from all over the world and nothing excites me more than tasting something new or learning a new technique. Every year I come away from the Roux Scholarship enthused and with new ideas.
What do you enjoy about judging the Roux Scholarship?
Seeing the next generations of chefs cooking their hearts out for the ultimate prize is humbling and to see how much it means to them is so special.
What advice would you give applicants?
I look for technical skills and knowledge in a recipe but also individuality. Even if the Roux Scholarship is firmly based in the French classics it does not mean we are not looking for something adventurous. A common mistake is to over-complicate the dish and recipes, sometimes less is more!
How can taking part in The Roux Scholarship help a chef's career?
The Roux Scholarship is special. The winner is almost guaranteed a glittering future but the same could be said about all finalists. The competition brings all chefs together as one.
How do employers/kitchen brigades benefit from entering their chefs?
Not only does the competing chef benefit from entering: the whole brigade and establishment gets a boost from being part of it. It’s wonderful to see the support given by head chefs, or the owners, and it can definitely make the difference to a chef’s success.
Why is it important to learn and master the classic cooking techniques?
The classics for me are more about technique than recipes. Once mastered, a chef can progress and master all styles.
What have YOU learned thanks to being a judge?
As a judge I learned that if you don’t succeed, try again. Many winners of the Roux Scholarship were finalists in previous years and re entered stronger and more confident.