Overall ranking: 36
Restaurateurs ranking: 7
The Roux brothers are regarded as the godfathers of modern restaurant cuisine in the UK. They put Britain on the culinary map and raised standards across the board through their ground-breaking Michelin-starred restaurants, their TV series, their many books, and the unflagging training and encouragement they have provided to many of today’s top chefs.
Michel currently owns the three-Michelin starred Waterside Inn in Bray, Berkshire, and the White Hart Inn near Colchester in Essex, which is run by ex-Waterside staff. Albert owns London’s two Michelin-starred Le Gavroche in London and his wide-ranging consultancy work includes a number of cafés in hotels and department stores.
Albert was born in 1935 and Michel in 1941 into a family of French charcutiers. For much of their early career they cooked for wealthy individuals – Albert, notably, for Lady Astor and for Peter Cazelet’s estate in Kent – and both gained an insight into British tastes at the British Embassy in Paris.
In 1967, the Roux brothers opened Le Gavroche in London’s Lower Sloane Street (moving it to Upper Brook Street in 1981). In 1982 it became the first UK restaurant to hold three Michelin stars.
The Waterside Inn opened in the Berkshire village of Bray in 1972. It gained its third Michelin star in 1985 and has held onto this accolade longer than any other UK restaurant. Eight guest bedrooms were added in the 1990s.
In 1972 the brothers started a catering service that was bought by Compass in 1993 to become Roux Fine Dining, with Albert as a consultant.
Between 1969 and 1996 Roux Restaurants opened a number of restaurants and brasseries in London – including Poulbot Pub, Le Gamin, Gavvers, Les Trois Plats, and Roux Britannia – which the brothers sold to focus on their consultancy work.
In 1986 the brothers separated their businesses, with Michel taking on the Waterside Inn and Albert retaining Le Gavroche. In both cases, their sons – Alain in Bray and Michel Jnr in London – now run the kitchens.
What we think
The Roux brothers were voted the UK’s most influential chefs by their peers in a 2003 Caterer & Hotelkeeper survey and their profound impact on food and cooking in this country has not been lost on the British Government. Awarding the brothers honorary OBEs in 2002, Foreign Minister Jack Straw described them as: “two of Britain’s finest ambassadors who together have greatly enhanced Britain’s gastronomic standing in the world … Thirty years ago just the phrase ‘British cuisine’ would have led to a belly laugh. That we can now talk proudly of ‘British cuisine’ owes a huge amount to the outstanding work of the Roux brothers,” Straw added.
The brothers arrived in Britain in the 1970s as hardcore French professionals in an era of enthusiastic amateurs. In the 1980s, they pioneered the use of quality ingredients by setting up a company to freight in produce from Rungis market in France.
They have won countless awards in Britain and in France, including four Caterer & Hotelkeeper Catey awards – the Waterside Inn won the 1984 Menu of the Year award; Michel and Albert were voted Independent Restaurateur of the Year in 1985 and 1988 respectively; and in 1995 the brothers scooped the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Among other key awards, Albert was the youngest chef to be elected as Maître Cuisinier de France (in 1968) while Michel has held one of the top culinary awards – the Meilleur Ouvrier de France en Pâtissier – since 1972.
Perhaps their most lasting legacy has been the countless young chefs they have trained and nurtured, including such luminaries as Pierre Koffman, Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay. In 2004, when Michel was voted the AA Chef’s Chef, he calculated that he had trained more than 1,000 people over the past 35 years.
In 1984 they set up the Roux Brothers Scholarship, in which 50 young chefs compete annually to win three months’ experience in any UK or European three Michelin-starred restaurant of their choice.
Michel bought the White Hart Inn near Colchester in 1995 and has acted as a consultant to British Airways from 1983 to 2003, and to the nine-strong Celebrity Cruises group since 1990.
Albert, a founder of the Académie Culinaire of Great Britain, has explored many different avenues. He opened a boucherie in London in 1982 which transformed into a deli and retail traiteur until it was sold in 1999. Between 1981 and 1999 he was involved with the five-star London hotel 47 Park Street. In 1983 he worked with Bournemouth University to experiment with sous vide (boil-in-the-bag) cuisine, opening the UK’s first sous vide factory in 1985.
Since 1999, the House of Albert Roux has operated Roux Express and Albert Roux Cafés at House of Fraser department stores while the Albert Roux Consultancy has set up restaurants at Accor’s Sofitel The Grand Amsterdam hotel and its Sofitel St James hotel in London.