Albert Roux has died aged 85

The Staff Canteen

The Roux family has announced the sad passing of Albert Roux, OBE, KFO, who had been unwell for a while, at the age 85 on January 4 2021.

Albert is credited, along with his late brother Michel Roux, with starting London’s culinary revolution with the opening of Le Gavroche in 1967.

His son, Michel Roux Jr, says that Albert’s sheer love of life and passion for making people happy through his food will be greatly missed: “He was a mentor for so many people in the hospitality industry, and a real inspiration to budding chefs, including me.” 

Albert Roux revolutionised British cuisine in the 1960s alongside his brother Michel Roux. His first restaurant, Le Gavroche, was the first restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star in Britain and later went on to earn three. He opened several other restaurants which have seen a number of renowned chefs pass through their doors, founded the Roux Scholarship and won numerous prizes.

Roux has set the bar high for fine British dining. Roux was born in 1935 in Semur-en-Brionnais, France and originally wanted to become a priest. However, an unpleasant experience in his village church made him change his mind. Instead, he started cooking at the early age of 14 as a patissier apprentice but he didn’t like it, commenting, "It's fiddly and there's no money in it. You stand for ten hours decorating a cake and you can never charge the right amount of money for the time you spend. Patience is not one of my virtues."

Aged 18, he came to the UK and started working for wealthy families and in embassies. He cooked as commis de cuisine in Nancy Astor’s country home at Cliveden. After that, he spent one year cooking at the French Embassy in London and later at the home of Sir Charles Clore in Mayfair. After serving his military service in Algeria, Roux spent two years as a sous chef at the British Embassy in Paris. Upon returning to the UK, he spent eight years working as chef to Major Peter Cazalet at his Kent estate.

In 1967 he opened his own restaurant Le Gavroche in Chelsea, London, which became extremely successful. His brother Michel joined him and together they sought the highest standard possible in dining and serving. The brothers placed emphasis on fresh and good quality products, and even went across the channel to shop for their goods. In 1974 the restaurant received its first Michelin star, and was the first British restaurant to earn the revered accolade.

By 1982 Le Gavroche had three, again the first British restaurant to hold such an achievement. Many of the cooks who worked with Roux in the kitchen became top chefs themselves, including Gordon Ramsay, Pierre Koffman, Marcus Wareing and Marco Pierre White. Roux’s son Michel Roux Jr. joined Le Gavroche in 1988 and after a few years became executive chef, holding two Michelin stars. After the success of Le Gavroche’s, Albert Roux decided to open another restaurant, Le Poulbot, on the site of an old pub. It was swiftly was awarded with a Michelin star. He also established a charcuterie and the Brasserie Benoit, later known as Le Gamin. The Waterside Inn, which opened its doors in 1972, soon received three Michelin stars too. In 1986 the brothers separated their businesses and Albert Roux took control of Le Gavroche while Michel Roux ran the Waterside Inn.

The businessman Albert Roux was, he set up the Roux Outside Catering Division, the Roux Fine Dining, which was eventually sold to the Compass Group. In 1973 a bakery was founded, being part of the Roux Restaurants Limited, to supply the Roux restaurants with a high standard of patisserie. It also delivered to some top hotels, stores and organisations in England and abroad, also giving young cooks the chance to be trained there. Roux had numerous appearances on TV and radio shows and published many cookbooks. He aimed to pass on his knowledge to other chefs.

After retiring from the kitchen, Roux focused on exactly this and began training young cooks at many different institutes, including Bournemouth University among others. For this work, he received several awards. In 1985 he and his brother founded the Roux Scholarship, which has a reputation as the “crème de la crème of culinary competition”.

Albert and Michel’s sons now lead the programme. He was a participant of the charity Adopt A School, part of the British Academy of Culinary Arts, which aim is to “expose children to the taste of food”.

In 2011 he was even awarded with the Papal Knighthood and thus became Knight of the Order of St. Francis I. Roux’s personal life was very turbulent. He described himself as a “philanderer”.

Roux divorced his first wife Monique, mother of his two children Michel and Danielle, in 2001. When speaking of the affair he had while being married, Albert stated, “It was very enjoyable and I don’t regret it at all.”

In 2006, he married his second wife Cheryl, until she left him in 2014 upon discovering that he had been cheating on her. Albert Roux was an extraordinarily talented chef who changed the reputation of British cuisine. He brought the first Michelin star to Britain and established several successful restaurants, a brasserie, a patisserie and a leading scholarship programme for chefs. He passed on his knowledge of cooking to junior cooks and was also very involved in charities.

Roux was a unique man and chef, who has left a great legacy in the cooking world. Maybe his secret to success was that he did not cook to receive a star. Roux said, "I never cooked for Michelin. You must always cook for the customer, not for a star.”

Albert Roux is survived by his son Michel Roux Jr and daughter Danielle, his brother Michel Roux died in March last year. 

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 6th January 2021

Albert Roux has died aged 85