“If you don't get it right first time, try again. Get support from your peers, sometimes one needs a little nudge!”
René Pauvert won the Roux Scholarship in 1986 at the age of 23. He did stages at Joel Robuchon at the Jamin, Paris, and with Michel Roux at the Waterside Inn, Bray; with Emile Jung at Le Crocodile in Strasbourg and the Souffle Restaurant at the Intercontinental Hotel, London. He is now semi-retired, working as a consultant chef and teacher.
René was the first French winner of the competition and grew up in Nantes in the Western Loire. He first decided to become a chef after watching Michel Oliver on TV, started his career in a local restaurant L'Amphitryon in Nantes and went on to work in Brussels for three years at the Ramada Hotel.
In 1984, he moved to London and for 14 years he worked in two prestigious 5-Star institutions – The Grosvenor House and the InterContinental – where he held the position of Executive Sous Chef.
In 1998, René moved to Melbourne for the role of Chef de Cuisine at the city’s five-star Sofitel hotel, where he was Chef de Cuisine at their award-winning dining venue Le Restaurant. He was jointly responsible for winning Australia’s Best Fine Dining Restaurant Award, two years consecutively.
René moved to Armidale in August 1999 after being invited by the proprietor of Lindsay House to become a partner in the development, planning and direction of the restaurant and catering businesses. Whilst at Lindsay House the following awards were won: New England Regional Awards for Excellence 2000: Restaurant of the Year; Caterer of the Year and Best Modern Australian Restaurant. In the New South Wales Regional Awards for Excellence 2001, he won Caterer of the Year.
In March 2003, he opened René on the Mews, Moore Street, which served top quality produce and gourmet food at affordable prices. Since 2017, he has lived in Lemon Tree Passage near Newcastle in New South Wales.
What did you cook in the final?
What did you cook in the final? On the day of the final I was nervous like all the other finalists. There was also a good sense of camaraderie. I didn't know much about live competitions having done one prior to this one, in which I cooked a glazed turbot chaudfroid. My head chef of the time, Vaughan Archer, came to the fish section where I was working at the 90 Park Lane Restaurant and told me that he had chosen me to enter the competition and that I will need to create a dish based on pheasant, garnishes and sauce for the regional final. I decided to do a whole roasted pheasant, turned celeriac stuffed with a chestnut purée, glazed turned carrot, and courgette, sautéed chanterelle mushroom accompanied with sauce Salmis with black truffle julienne. The funny anecdote is that on the day of driving to Bath for the semi-final and, having put aside all the necessary food and equipment ready to load into Vaughan Archer's car, I forgot the pheasant, only to realise on arrival. My chef had to go around town in search of a local butcher, to sort me out of my predicament, so I was ever so thankful to him.
Where did you do your stage?
I went to Joel Robuchon at the Jamin, Paris, for two months, and then spent five weeks with Michel Roux at the Waterside Inn, Bray. I also spent a week with Emile Jung Le Crocodile in Strasbourg and a fortnight at the Souffle Restaurant at the Intercontinental Hotel, London. I also spent some time with Louis Outhier at La Napoule, France. I had the honour and privilege to meet and work with some great chefs during my training, that gave me a higher sense of professionalism, perfectionism and dedication for my trade.
What do you remember most about the competition the year you won?
I was happy to win the semi-final, grateful that Vaughan Archer and the Grosvenor Hotel put their trust in me and that I was able to return that trust.
What advice would you give applicants?
Have a go, give 100 per cent, be committed, don't lose faith. If you don't get it right first time, try again. Get support from your peers, sometimes one needs a little nudge!
Who are your culinary heroes?
When I arrived in London, I encountered a few prejudices towards me as a French person working in the kitchen amongst a few British young chefs. I am particularly grateful to Vaughan Archer for putting his trust in me, Michel and Albert Roux for creating such a wonderful competition enabling young chefs of all backgrounds to shine and the following up and the care they give to our profession. Remembering his generosity and genuine personality, Michel always took time to sit and chat with me and my wife Jill. Also Peter Kromberg, executive Chef of the Intercontinental Hotel for being a father figure all those years working under him, steering me towards being a better person as a man and professional.
What is it like to be a Roux Scholar?
It is an honour and privilege to be amongst a group of professional chefs, who are striving for excellence for our profession; and to see that the Roux Scholarship has gone from strength to strength. From the beginning, it has been the highlight of our industry calendar.
Tell us about your /career highlights?
Owning my own business for 14 years was a great opportunity to embrace the whole management system, which doesn’t just restrict yourself to the kitchen but encompasses the full package of running all aspects of the enterprise. I have been teaching at the TAFE technical college in Newcastle (New South Wales, Australia), this give me a purpose of giving back to the Hospitality and Tourism. I also worked at the local French Restaurant, The Poyers, where - with the owner Ludovic Poyer - we are nurturing young budding chef and hopefully planting the seeds for the next generation of professionals.
What took you to Australia?
By the age of 30 and with a family with three children, I came to a crossroad! I could carry on with life as it was or discover new horizons; I chose the latter. Having worked with a great bunch of Australians over the years I was tempted to give it a go there, and go for five years… 22 years later, here I am still in Australia, with citizenship. I feel that I have fulfilment in both my family life and career. If I could give one piece of advice to a young chef: be committed to your profession without losing focus on the other important things in your life.