Michel Roux Jr. probably doesn’t need that much of an introduction so we’ll keep it brief.
We managed to get this Marathon running, TV presenting, Michelin Star wielding fella to sit down for just a little a bit and answer us a few questions about fist fights, cooking for Eric Cantona and why he’s updating his book, The Marathon Chef…
Full name: Michel Albert Roux
Role: Chef Patron of Le Gavroche restaurant in Mayfair
DOB: May 23rd 1960
Birthplace: Pembury, Kent
Fun Fact: Michel has completed 20 marathons
Jack: What’s a ‘day in your life’ like? Could you give us an insight into the life of Michel Roux Jr?
Michel: I am in the restaurant most days. I arrive early, sometimes I pop out for a meeting, but I will be back by 11am to prep for what is always a busy lunch service. I try to go to the gym in the afternoon between lunch and dinner service– being a chef is a very physical job, you are on your feet a lot and it is important to be fit. I also run marathons (I ran my 20h this year), so hitting the gym regularly is an important part of the training. I also make sure to have a cup of tea with my wife before heading back to the restaurant for dinner service; I then will be in the restaurant all evening.
Of course, I am involved in filming, and will be publishing a new cookery book later this year, but generally I fit this around being in the restaurant.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had, how did you overcome it, and what did you learn from it?
When I took over running Le Gavroche from my father in 1991, it was a huge challenge and massive responsibility – it’s definitely tougher taking on a business that’s such a success than in starting something from scratch. But I see my role as continuing the legacy, and I hope that I’ve learned how to keep the restaurant evolving and to stay valid and fresh.
Who’s the person who’s most inspired you in your work – food industry or otherwise? Is there anyone that you draw inspiration or strength from? Do you have any specific culinary influences?
When you come from such a food-orientated family, you grow up with an appreciation for great food, so my parents and family were my earliest influences. We have a love of the classics, and I think that Escoffier is one of the great chefs that has influenced my approach. Some more contemporary chefs who I have enormous respect for include Alain Chapel.
What do you enjoy most and least about what you do?
I love what I do in the restaurant, you couldn’t keep up the pace of a busy restaurant kitchen and front of house if you didn’t love what you do. What do I like least about it? Having to turn down so many interesting opportunities because there just isn’t enough time in the day (or night!) to cram it all in.
What’s your most proud and/or memorable moment in your career to date?
I must be receiving a BAFTA award for MasterChef the Professionals
And perhaps one you’d rather forget?
It’s already forgotten – I like to look to the future [Ed: touche]
What advice would you give to aspiring professional chefs who’d want the kind of career that you’ve had?
Work hard (very hard), learn as much as you can from the best people in the business, open up your mind and palate by eating out at lots of different places, and be true to the sort of food you want to create. Some chefs try too hard to cook for the Michelin guide when they should be cooking for their customers, with us, it’s always customers first.
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing instead?
I really wouldn’t want to do anything but cook and run restaurants. It’s in my blood, and it’s a real passion for me. I’m very lucky to be doing exactly what I want to.
If you could cook anything for anyone, anywhere you chose – who would you pick, where would you do it and what would you cook for them?
I would cook for Eric Cantona at Old Trafford and prepare for him a classic French Tournedos Rossini, served with the best Claret.
You seem like the kind of person who likes to stay healthy, despite a demanding schedule and being surrounded by delicious yet not healthy food choices. How does marathon running relate to what you do as a chef (you’ve run a fair few now, right?) and how do you balance the two?
I completed my 20th marathon this year, and yes of course I’m surrounded by all sorts of food, but I don’t find it difficult to keep to a healthy diet. For example, I love butter on my bread, but the only time I eat it is on my morning toast. It’s important that you eat what you enjoy, but there has to be a good balance.
You did write a book about the kind of food that worked for you right, and I also read that some of those recipes ended up on the menu at Le Gavroche… what best fuels your runs, and have you ever entertained the idea of gourmet, low volume, high carbohydrate cuisine for endurance athletes with a discerning palette?
It’s ten years since I published Marathon Chef, and I think it’s time for an update, so I’m working on a new book at the moment which will give healthy recipes for active people, but it’s not aimed at professional athletes, it will be for everyone who likes to keep fit, and eat healthily and well.
Where next for you?
And we always ask three customary ridiculous questions…
If you had to get into a no holds barred, 20 round fist fight with any fictional character, who would you square off against?
Buzz Lightyear, which might be more difficult than you think!
If you had to have any character from Greek mythology come and work with you at Le Gavroche, who would you employ?
Zeus; the god of law, order and justice
If Le Gavroche was forced to change from a purveyor of delicious foods into a martial arts dojo, what style would you guys teach and what music would you play in your gym to get people fired up?
Kendo but with Global knives not sticks, with Deep Purple playing