“Albert and Michel helped me understand the meaning of cooking: the ingredients, the training and the dedication needed to achieve your dreams.”
John was the second winner of the Roux Scholarship in 1985 and he did his stage with Roger Vergé at Le Moulin de Mougins, France.
John started his career working in two and three-star Michelin restaurants and was working at the Connaught Hotel in London when he won the Roux Scholarship. He also worked in the kitchens of Le Gavroche and The Waterside Inn.
After his stage at Le Moulin de Mougins, under legendary chef Roger Vergé, he was asked if he wanted to stay on. John worked abroad for another three years, during which time the doors kept opening and he worked at The Diva, and for The Onassis family on their private yacht and villas. He also worked The Dusit Thani in Thailand, chef consultant in California, The Nikko in Sydney, Le Kiosk Sydney, and then moved to Australia where he ran Sweet Sensation Patisserie, in Brookvale, NSW.
Returning to the UK in 2015, John and his wife Daniella set up Didicakes, a boutique cake shop in Bath, UK, which they sold in 2020. John is currently working as a private chef in California.
Where did you do your stage?.
I went to the famous Moulin De Mougins with Roger Vergé, which was an eye-opener not just for the cuisine but for how Roger Vergé entertained his guests; his meet and greet was the best I've ever seen. The gentlemen were taken to the garden bar while Mr Vergé would whisk the ladies off to the garden and show off his herb garden while pouring them a glass of champagne and picking them a rose.
What did you cook in the final?
We had a very classic fish dish to cook: baby stuffed turbot with lobster mousse. To be fair, I was working at the most classic hotel in England at the time, The Connaught Hotel, and such dishes were regularly on the menu.
How many times did you enter?
I was entered by Michael Bourdin, the head chef at The Connaught, I got a lot of support from all my sous chefs and chef de parties. I won it on the first time; things were aligned on the day, it went like clock-work, I even got a dig in the ribs and a smile to say 'Well done' from one of the judges as I presented, (the late Peter Kromberg) who I had worked for, two years previously. He was a great Chef.
What do you remember most about the competition the year you won?
I loved the whole event, the surprise pastry box, having all my mentors judging me and then my cheeky brother-in-law booked a table for ten at Langan’s Brasserie for the winner of the Roux Scholarship one week before the final, so you can imagine the schtick I got from Richard Shepard (chef at Langan’s).
What advice would you give applicants?
For me, maybe because I’m older and greyer than most of the winners, the Roux Scholarship holds true to its beliefs of the basics and the classic dishes of French Cuisine. Get these right, learn and understand the history and depth of your trade and the rest will come naturally to you in any direction you wish to take you culinary journey.
Who are your culinary heroes?
Albert and Michel helped me understand the meaning of cooking: the ingredients, the training and the dedication needed to achieve your dreams. The first time I met Albert was on a wet Wednesday afternoon, when I was 21 years old and knocked on his door at Le Gavroche with his book under my arm to ask him a question about the recipe for dodine de canard. With no hesitation, he spent an hour with me explaining not only how to make the dish but the history behind it. Great man, great family.
What is it like to be a Roux Scholar?
Being a Roux Scholar is very dear to my heart, when I won it many years ago to be honest it didn’t sink in straight away. Being so young, it opened an amazing number of doors in fine dining for me, and I quickly came to appreciate the honour of being a Roux Scholar as my career developed.
Tell us about your career highlights?
As I approach retirement or at least slowing down a bit I can look back at the Roux Scholarship and say without any hesitation it was the catalyst which launched my amazing travels around the world in an industry that I love. I have so many career highlights: cooking for the King and Queen of Thailand and then being asked to cater for the Princess' engagement dinner; working for the Onassis Family on their private yacht and living through a ship fire in the middle of the Atlantic; being 27 years old and running a three-star Michelin catering company for Mr Vergé; owning the largest specialized dessert company in Asia…. It’s all due to a solid foundation, which the Roux family, young and younger gave me, Albert, the late and truly missed Michel, Alain and Michael Jr. Thank you.