MAGAZINE: Star interview - What’s next for Michel Roux Jnr?
The world-renowned gourmet reveals his post MasterChef plans, including appearing at the BBC Good Food Show Winter.
Since his controversial departure from BBC’s hugely successful MasterChef series, Michel Roux Jr has been busy.
Very busy in fact. Speaking before his appearance at the BBC Good Food Show – a three day culinary extravaganza in London’s Olympia – Michel admits he is not too disappointed by the exit. “You know, for me, television has never been the be all and end all. It’s not my job. And television has always just been a by-product of what I normally do.” The two Michelin-starred chef will be showcasing his cooking skills at the BBC Good Food Winter event: “I’ll be there all three days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday I believe. I’m very much looking forward to it. I’m doing a book signing, I’ll be doing some Q&A, some cooking demos, so yes, keeping very, very busy.”
His restaurant – La Gavroche in London – is Roux’s main focus. Since taking the reins at the two Michelin star establishment, he has poured years of learning under the stewardship of some of the world’s most renowned chefs into the menu. His father Albert and uncle Michel remain some of his biggest influences since taking over 20 years ago.
“I’ve always wanted to be a chef, for as long as I can remember, and they were a big influence growing up. They still are,” he says. Michel admits he has found it hard to break out from under his father’s shadow, but does not necessarily believe that to be a bad thing: “He started the business,” Roux explains. “But I think I have made my own reputation now. He and Uncle will always be there and they will always have their legacy as well.”
Food is truly in the blood for the Roux clan; Michel served his military service with cousin Alain at the Elysee Palace but reveals there was never any battle for supremacy between the two. “There was never any competition. We’ve always been cousins; never a bad word between us.” Cooking for French Presidents and the Council of Ministers is an experience that has left a mark on Roux, and ensured his food hit the high standards he has maintained at La Gavroche today: “It was an absolutely amazing experience cooking for two presidents, Giscard d’Estaing and Francois Mitterrand. It was an honour and a privilege and one that will always stay with me.”
His daughter Emily is the latest in the family to make food her business. “She’s always wanted to be a chef,” Roux says of Emily. “She’s never thought of being anything other than a chef. That’s the way it is, I suppose. It’s in the genes,” he laughs.
Roux believes there is more than just the menu to thank for the success of his restaurant, explaining “the key to a good restaurant is actually more than just good food. The key to a good restaurant is the whole experience. So the front of house, the service and the buzz. The buzz is very important. A good atmosphere.” He admits that while dining habits evolve rapidly, his restaurant possesses the right balance of classic and innovative dishes that render the menu somewhat timeless: “Sharing plates and tapas-style dining are in but there will always be a place for the formal restaurant, I think. We all have birthdays and anniversaries and we all want to have that luxurious pampered feel, so they will always exist.”
These days, Michel Roux Jr’s favourite luxury is something a busy chef rarely gets to enjoy: “The biggest luxury is not something you can buy. And that is time!” he explains. “So when I can afford to take just a little time off and chill out a bit, that’s a huge luxury.” With “a few TV projects” to be signed off for next year, Roux will hope to make the most of his time off air and in the kitchen, continuing his progress as one of the world’s best chefs.
The BBC Good Food Show Winter takes place at NEC Birmingham 27-30 November 2014: http://www.bbcgoodfoodshowwinter.com/