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IN CONVERSATION WITH: MICHEL ROUX JR.

To celebrate the launch of Michel Roux Jr.'s exclusive new menus, we spoke to the legendary chef about his life in food, from how he got started as a chef, to his dessert island dish.

How did you get started as a chef?

From day one of my life, I was in a kitchen.  My mother went into labour as she was helping my father cook professionally…so I was very nearly born in a kitchen!   I was brought up as a French child in rural Kent, while my father was working as the private chef for the Cazalet family. Food was our life – not always expensive, extravagant food, but food we would forage and cook (my dad raised chickens, pigeons and rabbits for the table). Food has always been my life, from a young age until today.

If you had to pick just one, what would be your desert island dish?

It would have to be roasted lobster with loads of garlic butter, big fat chips cooked in goose fat and a big pot of béarnaise to dip them in. Absolute heaven!

What piece of kitchen equipment could you not live without?

My most-used piece of kitchen equipment is the mid-sized Global chopping knife. It's like an extension of my hand, it's so balanced and solid. I also cannot live without a great cast-iron pan.  Some of mine I have had for years. The sturdiness, versatility and quality is unmatched.

Where are your favourite places to shop (for cooking equipment or for ingredients etc)?  

I get superb British cheeses from Neal’s Yard. It has something new every time I walk in. Berry Bros & Rudd on St James’s Street is my go-to for wine — it has a beautiful 19th-century cellar.

Where are your favourite places to eat and drink in London?

There are some exceptional French style restaurants I love to go to around London, but recently, I’ve been going to Roka and Zuma a lot since they’ve re-opened.  I love that kind of food and I don’t make it at home. I can slice up some raw fish and make a nice sashimi, but it is not the same. They do it really well. 

The Wigmore and The Artesian at The Langham have got to be two of my favourite drinking spots.

Which chefs have inspired/influenced you and your cooking the most? 

Undoubtedly my father and uncle were both enormous influences for me. During their lifetimes in the kitchen, they trained so many people who have gone on to become really great chefs and restaurateurs all over the world.  Mentoring was at the heart of everything that was important to them, and they were both so proud of setting up the Roux Scholarship, which has been described as the ultimate competition for young professional chefs, and which my cousin Alain and myself continue to run.   When I began cooking professionally, I was a Commis de Cuisine at Alain Chapel’s signature restaurant at Mionnay near Lyon. He really was a huge influence on me.

What’s your career highlight? 

Taking over the reins of Le Gavroche in 1991 was an incredibly proud moment. I worked so hard to be given that responsibility, and that hard work hasn’t let up ever since.

What’s your favourite city in the world for a foodie holiday?

It’s impossible to pick just one. For years it was Hong Kong, I also love a food pilgrimage around New York City, but recently I have been blown away by the food in Paris which is just getting better and better.

What are your favourite shop-bought snacks?

Really good quality dark chocolate.  Chocolate is a particular weakness of mine. 

What’s your go-to dinner to cook at the end of a long day?

It’s got to be quick, easy and satisfying as I’m so exhausted by the end of the day. Eggs are so versatile and quick to cook, so I’d probably go for an omelette. You can whack in anything you fancy from the fridge, it’s not only tasty but a great way to use up lots of ingredients and prevent waste.

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