Masterchef S02 ep1 : Michel Roux, Restaurant Le Gavroche, [London]

Interview with Michel Roux

The Master's Master.

The brother's Roux have single-handedly been the breeding ground for all the top 2-3 star Michelin Chefs in the UK. Their students include Marco-Pierre White, Phil Howard, Gordon Ramsay....the list goes on and on...


Roux: Le Gavroche is very precious, it’s a family business, it has family values and we’ve been
trading now for 40 years so it means a lot and especially being 40 years at the very top of our

Roux: My father and uncle came from a maison bourgeois, a background, maison bourgeois means
private house, they were private house chefs and they never actually worked in restaurants so it
was very unusual for that style of cooking and sort of that kind of chef to then open his own
restaurant and I think that’s what made a difference because Le Gavroche is all about personalised
service, special food and special treatments that maybe you would only find in a private house.

Roux: My father’s first job in England was as a private chef to the horse trainer of the Queen
Mother, so it was a very prestigious job, but I mean he was a young man, he was only in his early
20’s so a lot of pressure there, but he fell in love with the country immediately, he fell in love with
the horse racing and the wonderful produce that was in Britain at the time like the seafood, the
game and things like that and obviously after a few years and falling in love with the country, his
brother, the younger brother, Michel, who’d always said I would follow my brother anywhere he
goes or wherever he goes, came along and joined forces and it was an obvious evolution to then
want to open their own restaurant.

Jewellery Theatre Carravaggio

Roux: In the 50’s, 60’s, even the 70’s there really was not much going on in London other than the
big hotels, and even then it was pretty damn awful. As soon as Le Gavroche opened in April 1967
it was full, full house every night because they were offering fantastic French food that hadn’t been
seen before, especially in London and London in the 60’s and 70’s was a buzz, alight, you name it,
they were there and you know we have our book with all their signatures in, Leigh V… and we’ve
got Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithful and people like that, Charlie Chaplin, Charlie Chaplin came to
dine three nights in a row whilst he was filming here in London he enjoyed it so much. In fact, he
ate the same thing three nights in a row he enjoyed it so much. So people like that, so it’s a piece
of history, it’s not just about the Roux brothers and the Roux family, it’s about culinary history in

Roux: I was almost born in a kitchen and that’s a fact and have always been brought up with these
smells and the sounds of a kitchen so for me it was very much a natural evolution just to carry on
and be in the business. At 16 I decided that it was time to leave school because I’d had enough and
I wanted to go to work, for me I needed to go to work and my father pointed me in the right
direction I feel and that was to become a pastry chef at first. So I was very, very pleased with that
and I did a two year pastry apprenticeship.

Roux: Both my father and uncle started off in the pastry, it certainly teaches you a certain
discipline, but also that recipes really need to be adhered to and if you’re one gram out in a pastry
recipe you can absolutely screw the whole thing up and it just won’t work, and then you can go on
to work in the kitchen and be a chef where a little bit more inspiration and flair, pinch of salt, dash
of lemon juice whatever, can really come into it. To go the other way round, to be a chef in a
kitchen and then go to pastry is very, very difficult.

Jewellery Theatre Carravaggio

Roux: Gavroche is very much French, we have our roots very firmly based in French cooking, we
have evolved and we evolve over a certain time but we do stick to being very classical and French,
by that as well I mean seasons, seasonality you know it’s very important to stick to your seasons;
peaches at the end of summer you know, strawberries in the early summer and springtime and so
on and so forth, game season now, so if you stick to your seasons of your country then I think that’s
step number one, which is very important. And then, when you take this new molecular
gastronomy I mean I don’t have a problem with it, there are a couple of chefs that do it beautifully
well and they are genius, they really are, it’s fantastic, it’s not the kind of food I would want to eat
every day of the week, but it’s challenging, it’s interesting, it’s clever. My problem with that is,
that there are a lot of wannabe young chefs that think that they know how to do it and it’s an
absolute pigs ear, it’s a disaster, and that is dangerous and that for me is scary, it’s quite scary.

Roux: If you take the word cuisine you know that had its’ highs and lows, but the actual real
nouveaux cuisine was a very clever idea, it was true cooking but then it got bastardised and it just
went ridiculous, these whacking great big plates with a tiny piece of beef and a raspberry on top
you know hey, hang on a minute, that’s not right, it’s like classic cuisine you know some people
say you know it’s just sauce laden and it’s heavy, not heavy, not true, doesn’t necessarily have to
be like that. But we still serve, believe it or not, a few dishes here that have been on the menu since
1967, like the soufflé suissese which is calorie laden, it’s cheese soufflé boiled on double cream
and egg yolk and everything. But we have people who just want to eat that. Now you can’t eat that
every day of the week, but for a special treat it’s unctuous, it’s sexy, it’s delicious, it’s a beautiful
recipe. It’s achieved its’ sum, you can’t evolve this dish any more because it’s just perfect, so why
should we take it off the menu?

Roux: Well we have a tartare of tuna on at the moment and that has a touch of ginger and a little
bit of coriander in it and that’s actually paired with a Belgian beer, a cherry beer, and that’s a
heavenly combination.

Jewellery Theatre Elements

Roux: It’s very important that customers of Le Gavroche actually see me, for me I find that vitally
important and it is part of the success story of Le Gavroche, my father was always here and I’m
here 90% of the time likewise. I do very little television work, I do a little bit of consultancy work,
I’m very fortunate, got a great team of chefs, great team out the front, and I can go off and be
absent for a very short time. When I’m away I pine to come back because for me this is home, this
is where I am, this is where I feel at ease, and this is where I feel that I should be. When my guests
here spend in excess of one hundred and fifty pounds per person in the evening that is when they
eat a la carte and have a good bottle of wine, I think they deserve to see the chef and see the
owner. I think so, I feel you know I feel it’s normal that I should be here and they should see me. I
don’t go and see every single table but I do come out and say hello and they can see I’m here.
They know I’m here and that’s vitally important for me.

Roux: And it’s always been very important for me and for my father, it’s the raw ingredients, the
prime ingredients. I mean something like new season lamb I mean that can really blow my mind I
mean you get the new season lamb and roast it off and just try that first one of the year and you
think wow, grouse is in season at the moment, it’s always lovely to just, just to see the first grouse
arriving in the kitchens roasted off and just smell that aroma in the kitchen and that’s the kind of
thing, the new seasons, we’re very seasonalist, there are very simple things as well that really make
me think, wow this is good. A gratin do… for example, potatoes cooked in cream. How more
simple than that, but I was eating out in a new restaurant two nights ago and there was a gratin
do… as a side order, I said you know that’s not a grain do…, not have a gratin do… for ages. God
it was good! It was so mind blowingly good that my wife didn’t get to taste it, I had it all. It was
just phenomenal. Everything was right in it, the texture, the potato, the choice of the potato, the
seasoning, it was just heavenly. It’s such a simple dish. But very often the simpler the dish the
harder to get it perfectly right, and whoever cooked that deserves a big kiss because I tell you, it
was just perfection. Who needs 101 ingredients, if you can just get three of the best ingredients and
it doesn’t have to be caviar or foie or anything like that, we’re talking potato cream and seasoning
and it was just perfectly, perfectly executed. Likewise the watercress soup you say, I know what
my father did, he cooks it in water, but it has to be the best watercress so watercress, water and
potato, oh you know, but if it’s perfect and it’s executed in the right way, it’s sublime, sublime.

Jewellery Theatre Fairytales

Roux: Silvano has been at Le Gavroche for longer than I have, he’s our Restaurant Manager and I
remember a night a few years back now a young couple came for dinner and they were very
amorous, they were obviously very much in love and as the first course came down they were still
very much embracing and holding hands and very much as young lovers do. And when the first
course was cleared the lady disappeared to the ladies cloak room which is only normal, followed
by the gentleman very discreetly about a minute later. Silvano saw this and saw the gentleman not
going to the gentleman’s cloak room but to the ladies, immediately dispatched one of the commie
waiters to stand in front of the ladies toilets and to stop anybody from disturbing this young couple
and telling them that the toilets were out of order for a short time and of course it was very discreet
and nobody actually saw what happened.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Michel Roux, Restaurant Le Gavroche, [London]