Alain Roux, The Waterside Inn, Bray

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 3rd January 2012

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

Son of culinary royalty Michel Roux and brother to Michel Roux, Jr., Alain Roux has carved out a very similar path to the other well-known members of his family and found similar success. He has worked in a number of Michelin starred restaurants, such as Restaurant Pic, Le Domaine D’Orvault, La Bonne Etape, Chateau De Montreuil and La Cote Saint-Jacques. He has worked devotedly for many years at his family’s Waterside Inn, Bray, and took over his father’s position of chef-patron after stints as demi-chef de partie and sous chef at the world-renowned restaurant. It was under Alain’s leadership as chef-patron that the restaurant celebrated becoming the first outside of France that had achieved three Michelin stars for over 25 years when its third was awarded in 2010.

 

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Images by kind permission of The Waterside Inn.

Chef first and foremost wonderful privilege to come into the Waterside and meet you so thank you very, very much for your time today.

My pleasure thank you.

Give us an overview of what it’s like to work in the Waterside Inn.

The Waterside is a small place, with a family feeling and we are very busy, in fact  it’s really busy, I would say that compared with a lot of the well known, famous restaurants these days is that we do run the Waterside as a business and not as a flagship or as a show case restaurant. We obviously take care of our guests, we love what we do, backstage and in front of house but we do care for what is left on the bottom line that is important.

And that's very, very important in the climate that we're in at the moment as well isn’t it because without profit you don’t survive.

It is if we face another recession it might make people think and then understand, that still today they might not make it tomorrow and it’s not a bad thing because they’re not the right school to learn. Everybody’s dream is to have their own business and I wish everybody would make it, but you can’t learn how to run a business and some restaurants where wastage is not your concern, the sourcing is not really important, it doesn’t matter if it’s seasonable or sustainable it’s carefully sourced, it’s important to work with your budget and depending on the work you want to do in your life, if you want to look at a business and run it for five years or if you want to run it for life you obviously have to make sure that you think well and you Absolutely and I think that's a lesson for a lot of people that go into the restaurant business and there's also this misperception that Michelin star restaurants don’t make money, well they have to.

They have to and again I find it a bit of a shame, talking about Michelin stars that a chef will start speaking with selling I've got a level of one or two or three, it doesn’t make any difference.

So what motivates you, the customers?

The customers and I love what I'm doing as a chef, but for sure in our job there's nothing nicer than to see happy faces, happy people, people enjoying their time, sitting with whoever the company they're with, if it’s their mistress, or girlfriend or wife or with their friends or if they’re celebrating a very special occasion, a birthday or an anniversary, to have happy customers that's the most important thing.

It’s obviously impossible to come to the Waterside and not mention your father, really a godfather of gastronomy for want of a better word, obviously with your uncle, but how much have you seen food in the UK change since the arrival of your father and uncle who obviously were very much championing a change at the time in the early 70s?

I saw a major change in that people obviously had different taste, they only had their background which was maybe then was pretty poor. I mean for sure the Roux brothers helped a great deal having several restaurants for quite a few years…

And the people they trained as well.

Exactly. Not only people that went to eat in those restaurants, but also to visit the places but they trained every day. I've tried to count and it’s impossible to count because they worked together for 15 years running a company which if I'm right must have held about six restaurants, two charcuterie, one butcher, one pastry factory producing…

Which used to be in Wandsworth Road didn’t it?

It did. Producing as well at the sites, at the hotels in the city. They even had a vacuuming…

They were really one of the fore founders of sous vide weren't they back many, many years ago.

Yes sous vide they were the first in that department, but it didn’t work they had to close down after a year or a year and a half. They were ten years too early. It’s a shame because now everything you buy is more or less vacuum packed.

Do you think there's a danger now though that we're becoming over-dependent on modern techniques and we're maybe losing some of the core values and the core skills in the kitchen?

Yes we might, we might. People obviously are less understanding and that's why it’s good to see so many youngsters coming to work in our team, in our kitchen, because they realise that that time is very important to go back to the roots and learn the basics.

As a very proud Frenchman with a very proud French family where do you see English cuisine now?

So first I've got two passports, French and British, and I'm…

But you have a very French accent. ((laughs))

Yes it’s very but I blame it on a few things but I'm born in the country here so I do love Britain and yes my parents are both French, the school was all in French and I lived 15 years in France. So my cooking is obviously my longest teachers is my father, so father started in the trade and for the English language it’s certainly my father, that's why it’s not very good.

I understand , but where do you think French chefs see English chefs now? Do you think they hold them with respect now?

Oh yes they clearly have got a different view about British chefs. They follow, they see that the British chef can cook and it’s normal. Time helps and as well experience helps and the world is so small these days and all the British people, you know you have the last 15 years, 20 years and we have all those doors opened too and not only France but in Spain or in Italy, all around Europe and even the other side of the Atlantic So they bring back a lot of goodies and they manage to express themselves from what they’ve seen and learnt elsewhere.

And are you continuing the Roux dynasty are you training your children to be chefs or are you teaching them don’t be a chef go and be something else?

I am training but it’s a very early stage because next week he’ll be…or in a couple of weeks he’ll be a year old.

Oh fantastic.

So yeah it’s hands in the dishes for my son but apart from that yeah he's…

Does he have a choice whether he's a chef or not?

Oh yeah, yeah, it’s pretty certain cooking will be in a few years he will need to wash up first and he will have a choice definitely.

27 years here, not you but the Waterside, where do you see the Waterside going in ten years time? Do you see it continuing as it is?

So the three Michelin star has been here 27 years but the family have run the business for 39 years.

Sorry of course yes.

Next year is 40th birthday.

Which is a fantastic achievement.

It is.

A fantastic achievement.

Certainly it’s a shame but it’s part of life you don’t see many businesses who have run for so long and yeah it’s 40 years next year. It’s two generations, it’s nice, it’s nice, I'm very proud.

And if you could sum up the success of the Waterside what would you put it down to?

I would put it down to good food, family atmosphere, certainly most important thing would be Diego Masciaga  who has been the maître de Maison our restaurant manager, and now since a few years director of The Waterside Inn  and he’s been with us, if I'm right, almost 30 years. So he's down to most of it and people, our guests when they come back to the Waterside and they all tell me it’s not only for the food. I don’t get upset I'm very pleased about that.

But that's important isn’t it, I mean it’s very, very important that you do excellent food but that it’s matched with excellent service.

It is and that's again I think thanks to my cousin and other few people who are in the trade they’ve tried to push the message forward and bring the profession forward because we've always known it ourselves, you can be the best cook in the world if you haven't got a good head waiter or good service your food would be second, so service is as important.

Absolutely.

And when you look at even one Michelin star or two Michelin star, certainly three Michelin stars, service is as important, is what deserved the three star as well as the team in the kitchen.

And on that note I think as I say it’s fantastic to come to such a place like this it really is and I wish you and the Roux family every success for the next 40 years.

Well I'll try my best.

Thank you chef, thank you so much.

My pleasure.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 3rd January 2012

Alain Roux, The Waterside Inn, Bray

IN ASSOCIATION WITH