“You could say I was almost born in the kitchen,” says Michel Roux Junior, a British chef from a French culinary family. “My mother went into labour while helping my father at work in his restaurant. All my childhood was spent in or around food. It was only normal for me to become a chef.”
After leaving school in London, Michel headed across the Channel to discover his family roots. He trained under various French chefs before returning to the British capital to help his father, Albert, and his uncle, Michel Senior, run their restaurant Le Gavroche, in Mayfair. There followed other posts in London, Hong Kong and Berkshire before he eventually took over the reins at Le Gavroche in 1991.
“When I started out, I thought Le Gavroche was too elitist for me,” Michel Junior once told The Daily Telegraph. “I wanted to create food for the masses and very few people could afford to eat at the restaurant back then. But I had a change of heart. I’m close to my father, but inevitably there was friction. I felt the restaurant needed to evolve and move on. My father wanted to let go, but couldn’t. It was his baby. Since then, I’ve kept several of his classic dishes, but lightened and modernised the menu.”
Nowadays Michel, who is 60 years old, still runs the same restaurant – to great acclaim – and regularly presents culinary programmes on British TV. Le Gavroche may have since lost its third Michelin star, but this doesn’t trouble him. “Three stars can be like cooking in handcuffs.”
And if you’re wondering how this chef manages to stay so slim, well it’s all down to his love of running. “For inspiration, I run marathons,” he says. “It’s my hobby. It helps to keep me fit, mentally stable, and above all it makes me hungry.”
From The French Revolution by Michel Roux Junior, published by Orion Books.
Extracted from Taste of France Issue Three.
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