Michel Roux Jr. talks about the Roux Scholarship 2015

The  Staff Canteen

Last week the eagerly awaited Roux Scholarship 2015 opened for entries. The Staff Canteen spoke to Michel Roux Jr, chef de cuisine at 2 Michelin star restaurant, Le Gavroche about ingredients, talent and twitter.

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British cuisine has become one of the most influential in Europe, developing dramatically over the past three decades. Our food and our chefs are no longer in the shadows of our European neighbours and dare I say we are a serious contender on the world stage too.

But where has this flare, creativity and downright talent come from? One family who would like to take some of the credit are the Rouxs. When they started The Roux Scholarship in 1984 the goal of the Roux brothers, Albert and Michel, was to enable a new generation of chefs from Britain to train in what were then the greatest restaurants in the world.

What they envisaged was that the chefs would return and start their own restaurants and slowly begin to change the gastronomic landscape of the UK. So have they succeeded? “Most definitely,” exclaimed Michel Roux Jr. “Just look at the past winners and what they have achieved. You don’t need to look much further than the first winner Andrew Fairlie. Then you’ve got Sat Bains who’s really flying and many more.” As The Roux Scholarship website states, it is no easy competition. It requires a good deal of effort not just from individual chefs but also from employers and executive chefs. Chefs need to practice, to travel to events and to spend time studying. This can only happen with the approval of and backing of those above them.

Simon Rogan Michel says that one of those employers who has got it spot on is Simon Rogan. He said: “He is one stable, he has produced three winners and he’s really going places. It’s because he’s prepared to invest his time and knowledge into these chefs - the quality of cooking when they come to the competition, this says a lot about him.”

>>> Realed: Simon Rogan, Proprietor of Umbel Restaurant Group

Cooking styles and techniques are changing all the time, for a family like the Rouxs whose name is steeped in food history does modern cuisine still allow room for the traditional French classics?

“Most definitely,” explained Michel. “It’s what The Roux Scholarship is all about. You can look at any successful chef and they will have trained in the classics. Even the most forward thinking chefs begin with classic French cooking.”

The classics may not have changed but the way we communicate has and The Roux Scholarship is no exception. It’s on twitter along with all of the Roux family, although Michel took a little longer to embrace this social media platform.

He said:  “Social media used in the right way can help you reach a far wider audience - most definitely. The website gets an unbelievable amount of hits and all of the scholars from previous years are always tweeting about it.” f6xgy3omci0boymss4ej

He added: “For many years I refused to use twitter, I got forced into it because someone was tweeting as me, not a parody actually as me and I got a bit cheesed off so I joined. It’s fun, there are a few strange ones on there but it’s fun.”

The Roux Scholarship 2013 took on a new twist when it was broadcast for the first and only time on TV. Over two weeks viewers followed the hopeful chefs on their journey and they witnessed first-hand the real drama, tears and surprises as well as some of the most mouth-watering food to be dished up on British television.

“We did that two years ago as part of the thirty year anniversary,” explained Michel. “It was well received and it went down really well. There are no plans to do it again, but who knows?”

So what is in store for the 2015 entrants? Well, the ingredients have been announced and they must use guinea fowl and chicken livers in a recipe for four, also including spinach. But how do the Roux’s decide what the wannabe winners should be cooking with? Is it only ingredients they like to use themselves, in fact is there anything the Rouxs don’t like to cook?

“Not really,” laughed Michel. “We discuss the choices as a family and we often give them seasonal products and something which will test the chefs.

“Guinea fowl is one of the most delicious treats when cooked with care and imagination, likewise the chicken livers can be an extravagance or disaster! I can't wait to see what the chefs are going to come up with."

Winners of the scholarship win an all-expenses paid, three-month stage at a 3 Michelin star restaurant of their choosing anywhere in the world, as well as a selection of unique prizes all related to food and hospitality. Last year’s winner Tom Barnes is currently in Belgium doing a three month stage at his chosen restaurant, Restaurant Hof Van Cleve, cooking with chef Peter Goossens.credit to hetnieuwsvanmorgen.blogspot.com

>>> Read: Tom Barnes wins the Roux Scholarship 2014

The current scholars are in New York on a culinary study trip. They have already been to Japan and on these trips they learn from, and interact with top chefs, some of which are Roux scholars themselves.

Michel explained: “They have a very busy time in New York from early rises to late finishes, but it’s going to be amazing. Unfortunately I can’t make it out there this time but I did go to Tokyo with them and that was amazing. There are obviously some serious elements to the trip but it’s supposed to be fun too.”

Alain and Michel have become more involved in the completion over the years with the view of taking the reins once Albert and Michel Roux Snr. decide it’s time to take a back seat. Michel said: “Alain and I, over the years, we’ve taken a more active role in running the competition but uncle is still the driving force. It remains a very strong and family run competition.”

To enter, you must be in full-time employment as a chef in the UK and be aged 22 or above, you must also be trained to NVQ level three, but in an out an out cooking competition why is that and would they consider allowing younger chefs to take part?

“That’s an interesting question,” said Michel.  “And not something we’ve contemplated. You can enter at 22 but even that’s young, but it’s an interesting concept.” rouxscholarship12

He added: “The competition is for professionals, we are looking for the minimum requirements and a level three NVQ is just what we want and what we look for. We also look for attitude, aptitude and ability – the three a’s! Also character, ultimately they will be a Roux ambassador so they need the right character. But it’ not just down to me, it’s a family decision along with our other judges.”

They often have a difference of opinion when it comes to the competition so imagine being around the Roux family dinner table. “When we do get together for dinner it gets quite heated,” said Michel. “As you can imagine we all have our own opinions!”

Michel doesn’t just have quality cooking in his blood he has honed his skills in some of the best kitchens in the world. So what advice does he have for budding scholars who may want to follow in his footsteps, what has stuck with him from the early days? “Don’t be late!” He said. “I was late a few times during my apprenticeship so I got punished by my boss – now I’m always early.”

For more information or to enter click here

By Cara Houchen 

@canteencara

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th November 2014

Michel Roux Jr. talks about the Roux Scholarship 2015