How do you even begin to describe the influence the Roux family has had on the food industry? As I sit down to chat with the legendary Michel Roux Jr, his famous name precedes him. His father and uncle, known as ‘the godfathers of modern cuisine’, have trained half of the UK’s great Michelin starred chefs, including Gordon Ramsey, Marco Pierre White and Piere Koffman. Following in his father’s footsteps, Michel completed an apprentice with Master Patissier Hellegouarche in Paris. Continuing his family’s legacy when he retired in 1993, Michel took over the running of the world famous Le Gavroche, where he has earned his reputation as a double Michelin star winning chef.
Thrilled, honoured and slightly overwhelmed, as I prepare my questions for Michel Roux I don’t know what to expect. Watching his countless TV appearances again and again, this is a man who seems down to earth and surprisingly ego-less despite his status. Happy to share his story with Hotcourses, I start at the beginning, asking about the apprenticeship that shaped his career and the affect this had on his cooking. Michel is characteristically humble, telling me ‘he was my first boss, so he shaped my work ethic –he taught me to lead by example.’
Going on to win two Michelin stars, I ask him about the pressure this puts on his cooking. ‘Michelin stars are all about consistent excellence; never letting any element of the business slip. You need to be dedicated and never let anything get in the way of your quest for perfection.’ It is this quest that led him to be trusted with the reins of his father’s restaurant Le Gavroche; the secret behind its success? Michel tells me ‘we never stray too far from our roots of classic French cuisine.’
One thing that strikes me about Michel, and the Roux name, is the dedication to training the next generation. I ask Michel what he looks for in the young trainees he works with. After a moment of reflection he tells me ‘I look for hard-working individuals, who are not afraid to put a shift in and youngsters that have the ability to learn; those who absorb what’s going on around them are a joy.’ In a highly competitive industry, Michel adds, ‘it’s a tough business, so I need my trainees to be determined to succeed and take pride in giving their customers enjoyment.’
A man who has such a massive influence on the London restaurant scene, I ask him to share some of his favourite places to go for a meal. A question Michel has no issue in answering, he tells me ‘Zuma is delicious and authentic and one of my favourite Japanese restaurants. C & R Cafe Restaurant in Soho with its generous portions and authentic tastes is a winning combination in my opinion – the restaurant is always packed which shows the customers agree. Tsunami in Clapham is my local favourite; it serves great sushi and authentic Japanese dishes, but not at the Mayfair prices we so often associate with good Japanese food. Also, Trinity restaurant in Clapham, run by Adam Byatt, serves great food at a very affordable price – my wife often goes there for a lunch with the girls!’ Stopping for breath, Michel’s answer proves how much he lives and breathes the industry he has grown into.
Focusing on the man behind the apron, I ask Michel about his go to guilty pleasures. Smiling, he tells me ‘Amedei chocolate is out of this world and I always really enjoy a glass of Gosset Champagne.’ Reading about his marathon running, just how does he find time to fit his training around his high pressured job? In his relaxed manner, Michel reveals ‘I always go for afternoon runs once I’ve completed service – I find that it’s a great way to get away from it all and reflect.’
Running out of time, I ask Michel to tell me about the hardest lesson he’s had to learn over his highly successful career. He tells me to ‘never become complacent. Complacency leads to inconsistency.’ His final advice for those reading this who dream of following in his footsteps? ‘Never give up, oh and read your classics!’ As I leave Michel to go back to his restaurant, I can’t help thinking that his infectious passion, drive and perfectionism are lessons we should all be inspired by.
If Michel has made you want to pick up the apron and learn from an expert, why not take a look at the cookery courses listed on Hotcourses. Whether you want to study full-time, or just do an evening course, we’ve got what you are looking for.