“I learned so much from the experience, which made me a better chef.”
Armand won the Roux Scholarship in 2007, at the age of 27. It was his second time entering the competition and it was the second time the winner came from the kitchen of another scholar: Armand was in the brigade of André Garrett at Galvin at Windows in the London Hilton on Park Lane (the first was Matt Tomkinson who was working in Martin Hadden’s brigade at Ockenden Manor when he won).
Born and brought up in Brighton, Armand decided he wanted to be a chef at the age of 14 having cooked family dishes with his mother and father. He began his career at The Lanesborough Hotel, and subsequent roles have seen him rise through the ranks in various kitchens, including L’Ambassade de L’Ile, then Bistro K in South Kensington, as well as Bistrot Bruno Loubet, at the Zetter Hotel and Townhouse.
Despite having a French name and parentage, Armand spoke ‘rusty’ French, so to prepare for his stage in the French-speaking kitchen of L’Auberge de L’Ile in 2007, the Roux Scholarship arranged for Armand to have an intensive refresher language course with strong emphasis on vocabulary needed in a professional French kitchen.
In 2012, Armand joined the brigade at Hotel Café Royal in London where he worked for for six and half years, initially as Head Chef at Ten room, rising to executive chef. During his time there, he oversaw the opening of Laurent Tourondel’s Laurent restaurant and Albert Adria’s Cakes and Bubbles in 2018.
In 2019, Armand moved to Hong Kong as Executive Chef of Harbour Side.
Where did you do your stage?
With Marc Haeberlin at Auberge de l’Ill in Alsace. I was very nervous when I left London to work at a three-star, which I had never done before, but learning French before made a massive difference. To be at Auberge de l'Ile, which was - at the time - the second longest running three-star in France, was tough, but they made me feel part of the family which made me think about the way I run a kitchen. I learned so much from the experience, which made me a better chef.
What did you cook in the final?
Tournedos Rachel served with artichoke and asparagus. It was a very interesting dish; you might think it is easy but there are so many elements to get correct and to make the dish worthy of the judge, and doing a soufflé garnish was a bit nerve-wracking.
How many times did you enter?
I entered the competition twice; the first time was an amazing experience to see what the Roux family and judges look for and then on the second attempt, and with another year's experience, I refined my techniques.
What do you remember most about the competition the year you won?
I remember the day as if it was yesterday, walking in to the Mandarin Oriental. I remember realising that I had made it to the final again and that this was one opportunity I wasn’t going to get wrong, then when they tell you the dish and you put all your focus on doing then best you can; then you walk in to the kitchen your mind focused on the job in hand and on making everything to perfection.
What advice would you give applicants?
I would say the most important thing is to look at it like a service at work and not to get stressed - easier said and done when there are the Roux family and the experienced judges look at everything you do - but for me it was always about my time plan and sticking to it, not being late.
Who are your culinary heroes?
I have worked with some my inspirational people in my career, from my mother and father for their support and love when I was younger, to Paul Gayler who gave me my first chance in a London kitchen at 18. Also Chris Galvin and André Garrett for their support in this competition and also Bryn Williams for him pushing me to be better when I was younger. Last but no means least, Michel and Alain Roux’s advice and mentoring on moving to Hong Kong.
What is it like to be a Roux Scholar?
To be a Scholar, you are part of an elite chefs' club that you can call on anyone for support or advice. In the industry, young chefs think 'I want to learn from him or her'.
Tell us about your current role and your career highlights?
My current role is executive chef of Harbourside Grill, Hong Kong. My career highlight was winning The Roux Scholarship in 2007, and also leaving London after 20 years to try something new in a different part of the world.