Albert Roux passes away at the age of 85
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 4 January 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.”
The Roux family have requested that its privacy at this time be respected.
Albert Roux: a biography
Albert Henri Roux was born on 8th October 1935 at Semur-en-Brionnais, in the region of Saone et Loire in France.
At the age of 14 he began his life-long passion with the culinary arts as he commenced his career as an apprentice patissier.
As a callow youth of 18, he came to the UK to spend time as a commis de cuisine in the old hierarchical environment within Nancy Aster's country home at Cliveden. Moving up the culinary ladder, he spent one year at the French Embassy in London, followed by his first tenure as a chef at the home of Sir Charles Clore in Belgravia. He was then called on to serve his Military Service in Algeria during which time he was invited on occasion to cook for the Officers' Mess.
Upon leaving the military, Albert took up a post as Sous Chef at the British Embassy in Paris where he spent two years before leaving for the UK once again. He was employed as chef to Major Peter Cazalet at the family estate at Fairlawne, Tonbridge in Kent.
He stayed with the Cazalet family for eight happy years. It was the Cazalet family and many of their friends who encouraged and financially helped Albert to open his own restaurant Le Gavroche, which finally he did with his brother Michel in 1967.
In the last five decades, the Roux brothers have made a huge impact on the British food industry and upon Britain’s eating habits. In April 1967, when they opened their first restaurant Le Gavroche in London’s Chelsea, they had £3,000 each and had to borrow the rest. Working together, taking turns in the kitchen and dining room, they had one aim: to achieve a worldwide reputation for the quality of their cuisine and service.
At the start Le Gavroche had a small and selective menu. The ingredients were always fresh and of tip-top quality. The brothers at first would go to market every day until they built up a circle of reliable and like-minded suppliers. They became pioneers of cross-Channel shopping trips (this of course ultimately gave rise to their own food transport company). In 1982 they received the highest accolade of all – three stars in the Michelin guide – the first restaurant in Britain to be so honoured.
In 1988 Albert’s son Michel Roux Jr joined Albert at Le Gavroche. Over a period of years Albert began to relinquish his day-to-day involvement until now it is Michel Jr who is Chef/Patron.
Michel Roux Jr at Le Gavroche continues to preserve the highest standards, standards for which it has always been justly famous. Michel Roux Jr’s style is “modern French”, or classical French cooking with a lighter and less rich approach, and subtly influenced by Mediterranean and Asian flavours and ingredients
Following the success of Le Gavroche, the Roux brothers decided to open another restaurant this time in Cheapside, and in 1969 Le Poulbot was founded on the site of an old pub. The pub style was retained on the ground floor and the basement was converted into an elegant City restaurant. Very innovatively for the time, both breakfast and lunch were served to the busy business community and it soon won Londoners’ hearts as well as critical acclaim. It was awarded the Golden Plate by Egon Ronay in 1971 followed by a Michelin one star rating.
In the 1970s, the Roux brothers opened a charcuterie next door to Le Gavroche, which was managed by their sister.
Seeing that their venture in the City had gone so well, in December 1971 the Brothers opened Brasserie Benoit, later known as Le Gamin. Its position had been carefully selected to be both near the Law Courts and the then-exciting and now legendary Fleet Street. The waiting staff of the Brasserie Benoit wore the colourful national costume of Alsace reflecting the typical Alsacien food served in the restaurant. Unfortunately, though tremendously well received, the costumes proved too heavy to work in and had to be discarded and the restaurant became Le Gamin – a street urchin who is the smaller brother of Le Gavroche.
In 1972 a traditional English pub was acquired and transformed into an elegant restaurant and cocktail bar and The Waterside Inn was born. With each brother alternating his time between Le Gavroche and The Waterside Inn, the restaurant received many accolades including the Egon Ronay Golden Plate Award, three Egon Ronay Guide stars and was acclaimed Restaurant of the Year in 1981.
In addition, in 1985, the Waterside Inn achieved three Michelin stars and for a while the brothers made Michelin history by owning two three-starred restaurants.
In 1986 the brothers separated their business interests and Le Gavroche was taken over entirely by Albert whilst the Waterside Inn became the sole responsibility of Michel Roux Sr. Le Gavroche is now led by Michel Roux Jr.
Over the years, chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White, Marcus Wareing, Pierre Koffman, Monica Galetti, Jun Tanaka, Bryn Williams, Phil Howard, Stephen Terry, Rowley Leigh, Paul Rankin, and Brian Maule have all earned their stripes in the Le Gavroche kitchen before going on to make their own contributions to the world’s food capital. Front of house Le Gavroche illustrious alumni include sommelier David Ridgway, Michel Lang, Diego Masciaga, Jean-Claude Breton, Thierry Tomasin and Fred Sirieix to name few.
In wine, as well as food, the Roux family has built a very strong reputation for excellence. Le Gavroche has one of the most extraordinary and valuable cellars in Europe, representing old and new world wines, classic and pioneering wine makers, and holding superb vintages to offer to their most discerning guests.
Honorary Doctorate and Charity Work
In recognition of his invaluable pioneering work in the field of sous-vide and his dedicated programme of the training of young chefs within his own kitchens, Albert was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Council for National Academic Awards at the University of Bournemouth in 1987.
In 2009 Albert was also awarded the Honorary Award of Doctor of the Thames Valley University in recognition of services to the hospitality industry.
Albert was a champion and founder member of The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts’ Adopt a School, a national charity delivering food education in schools. Founded in 1990, the charity reaches thousands of children every year and aims to tackle health inequalities and the lack of knowledge about food and healthy eating.
The Adopt a School programme teaches children about food in a holistic sense - where it comes from, how to cook it and its impact on health and the environment. Professional Chefs and hospitality professionals deliver sessions in the classroom (and sometimes in restaurants or on farms) which range in content from a taste and sensory session to advanced practical cookery and front of house. Albert has “adopted” several schools in Scotland.
The Roux family has been involved for many years with the Clink charity, of which Albert Roux was a patron. The Clink restaurants are situated within working prisons and all of the food is prepared and served by prisoners in training – providing meaningful work, and giving them the skills to leave prison and find work in the future.
Awards and Institutions
1968 Elected by his peers as Maitre Cuisinier de France
1975 Chevalier du Merite Agricole
1980 A founder member of the Academie Culinaire de GB now renamed as the Academy of Culinary Arts
1984 The Waterside Inn was winner of the Catey Award for best menu of the year
1987 Officier du Merite Agricole
1987 Awarded honorary PhD by the council for National Academic Awards
1987-2021 Professor at Bournemouth University
1988 Whilst still in charge of Le Gavroche, the restaurant won the prestigious Catey Award for Best Restaurant of the Year
1995 Together with his brother Michel, winner of the Catey Lifetime Achievement Award
2002 Awarded OBE
2005 Decorated with the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur
2009 Awarded the Honorary Award of Doctor in recognition of services to the hospitality industry by the Thames Valley University
2010 Lifetime Achievement Award
2011 Honorary Doctorate at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
2011 Papal Knighthood: Knight of the Order of St Francis I
Throughout the years Albert, with his brother Michel, have published several culinary books epitomising their views, philosophy and creative culinary expertise.
The first book New Classic Cuisine was published in 1983 and was awarded the Glenfiddich prize. In 1986 The Roux Brothers on Patrisserie was published followed by At Home with the Roux Brothers in 1988 and French Country Cooking in 1989. Finally Cher Albert in 1994 was a compilation of Albert’s answers and solutions to readers’ questions written in the highly popular weekly column in the Evening Standard in 1992.
The Roux Scholarship
The Roux Scholarship was founded in 1985 by Albert and Michel Sr. Since its inception the scholarship has gained a nationwide reputation as the ‘crème de la crème’ of culinary competition for young, ambitious chefs, encouraging them to aspire to greater heights. Albert and Michel Sr. sons, Michel Jr and Alain, now lead the scholarship.
The Roux Scholarship offers the winner a career-changing opportunity far beyond the much coveted three-month stage at a three star Michelin restaurant, including mentoring by the Roux Family. Many of the UK’s most prominent chefs are past winners of the Roux Scholarship, many winners have achieved Michelin Star status or are winners of major UK chef awards including the National Chef of the Year. Some of them are also working with the Roux family at their restaurants, including Chris King, who is executive chef at The Langham Hotel including Roux at the Landau.
The Roux Scholarship has immeasurably changed the gastronomic landscape of the UK, with previous Roux Scholars including the late Andrew Fairlie, Sat Bains, Frederick Forster, André Garrett, and Simon Hulstone.
Royal Academy of Culinary Arts
Albert and Michel Roux Senior were instigators of the formation of the Academie Culinaire de France in 1980, now known as the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts.
Since the mid-1980s, Roux took on both ad hoc and ongoing consultancy projects. Chez Roux Limited has grown consistently and organically from those early years.
As well as Le Gavroche, the Roux family operates the entire award-winning food & beverage offering at The Langham Hotel, London, including the Roux at the Landau restaurant, Artesian Bar, The Palm Court, The Wigmore pub and banqueting.
The family also operates Chez Roux, providing high level dining at major events and venues including the Wimbledon Championships, the Jockey Club racecourses including Epsom, Newmarket and Cheltenham.
The Rouxs run a small group of Chez Roux restaurants in leading Scottish hotels.