Andrew Fairlie was the very first winner of the Roux Scholarship in 1984. He trained with Michel Guérard, Les Près d’Eugenie, Landes, France and was chef-patron of two star Michelin Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, at Gleneagles, Scotland. Andrew sadly passed away in January 2019.
As the first winner of The Roux Scholarship in 1984, Andrew had a huge influence on the competition as ‘Head Scholar’ and as a judge, and embodied the values, qualities and talent of the scholarship. He inspired countless other chefs to be part of the competition and to push themselves for success, mentoring and supporting them. In the case of the other scholars and fellow judges, he was a dear friend, and to the Roux Family, he was another son. His kindness, generosity and warmth is missed by all of us.
Andrew’s career began while still at school, by working as a waiter at weekends at the Station Hotel, Perth. One Saturday afternoon, he pinched a spoonful of beef chasseur and the flavour sent him straight to the kitchen to ask the chef what he was tasting; it was fresh tarragon. He said it was this moment that inspired his decision to become a chef. He sat his last exam aged 15 and started work in the kitchen the next day.
His head chef was Keith Podmore, whom he then followed for several jobs, including a role at Boodle’s club in London. During this time, Andrew applied for stages in a number of kitchens in France, only to be met with a firm ‘Non’ – in the early 1980s British chefs were considered bottom of the culinary ladder by their European counterparts. How then, could chefs gain the experience they needed to progress? Elsewhere, the same question was being asked by Michel and Albert Roux, and in 1983 the Roux Scholarship was born, with the very intention of improving skills and opportunities for British chefs.
Keith Podmore encouraged Andrew to enter The Roux Scholarship and in 1984, he competed and won. The prestigious key prize was the chance to stage with Michel Guérard at Les Pres d’Eugenie, an experience he treasured for the rest of his life. Following his stage, he went on to work in the kitchens of the Hotel de Crillon in Paris, and then worked and travelled around the world with roles in Africa and Australia, before two seasons as chef de cuisine on the Royal Scotsman train and at Hotel Disneyland in Paris, where he set up the fine-dining restaurant.
In 1994, Andrew returned to Scotland, taking the role of head chef at One Devonshire Gardens in Glasgow, where he won his first Michelin star. After seven highly successful years at the restaurant, Andrew was keen to run his own and the chance came thanks to an old friend, Alan Hill, who was by then food and beverage director at the Gleneagles Hotel. Together they came up with the idea of Andrew running his own restaurant within the hotel, an establishment that would champion Scottish food, which had at the time a mediocre reputation. It opened in 2001 and within a year, they had won a Michelin star, and the second came in 2006 making the restaurant the only two-star Michelin restaurant in Scotland. Among his many other accolades were the AA Chefs’ Chef of the Year, in 2006, Chef of the Year at the inaugural Scottish Restaurant Awards in 2008 and Relais and Chateaux grand chef in 2011.
In 2013, Andrew revealed a project of which he was extremely proud: Gleneagles’ Secret Garden, a special space hidden behind Victorian, ivy-covered walled garden in which they grow rare and heritage vegetables, fruits, herbs and edible flowers for use in the restaurant.
Throughout his career, Andrew spoke of the Roux Scholarship’s influence: “When I was encouraged by my chef Keith Podmore to enter this new competition that the Roux brothers had started back in 1984 I had no idea the huge influence the scholarship would have on my career and life.”
In 2005, Andrew was invited to join the scholarship’s judging panel. He said: “It was a great honour, after the 21st anniversary, to be invited to join the judging panel of the scholarship, the fact that I was replacing Victor Ceserani who was a judge when I won the scholarship made it all the more special. When I look at the quality of the past and present judges, not to mention the list of previous winners it is not a role that I take lightly.”
Having first met Michel Guérard on his Roux Scholarship stage, Andrew was reunited with him several times throughout his career. The Roux Scholarship brought them together for two special occasions: when fellow scholar Matthew Tomkinson chose to do his stage with Michel Guérard, the chefs accompanied by Michel Roux OBE travelled to Les Près d’Eugenie for a story in The Caterer. Then in 2018, Michel Guérard attended the competition as Honorary President of Judges and Andrew and Chef Guérard returned to a kitchen together to see the next generation of talented chefs cook.
In 2019, The Andrew Fairlie Scholarship was launched by HIT Scotland. The scholarship is awarded annually to a male and female chef working in Scotland with the recipients gaining industry-wide recognition as Fairlie Scholars and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities such as a practical stage in an international kitchen, a placement at the Culinary Institute of America and at Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles.
For more information on his life and legacy, see www.andrewfairlie.co.uk