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Albert Roux dies aged 85

06 January 2021 by
Albert Roux dies aged 85

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

Chef, restaurateur, author and founder of the Roux Scholarship, Albert is credited, along with his late brother Michel Roux, with launching London's culinary revolution with the opening of Le Gavroche in 1967.

His son, Michel Roux Jr, said Albert's 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."

Michel Jr and Albert with Duncan Palmer at the Langham London
Michel Jr and Albert with Duncan Palmer at the Langham London

The Roux family have requested that their privacy be respected at this time.

Albert Henri Roux was born on 8 October 1935 at Semur-en-Brionnais, in the region of Saone et Loire in France.

At the age of 14 he commenced his career as an apprentice pâtissier and aged 18, came to the UK to spend time as a commis de cuisine at Nancy Astor's country home at Cliveden in Berkshire.

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 to serve his military service in Algeria.

On 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 years, and the family encouraged and financially helped Albert to open his own restaurant. Albert opened Le Gavroche with his brother Michel in 1967 on Lower Sloane Street (moving it to Upper Brook Street in 1981).

Michel and Albert Roux
Michel and Albert Roux

The restaurant became the first in Britain to receive three Michelin stars in 1982, retained until 1993, when it lost a star. In 1988 Albert's son Michel Roux Jr joined Le Gavroche and over the years Albert stepped back from his day-to-day involvement in the business. Michel Jr now oversees the venue as chef-patron.

Michel Jr and Albert Roux at Le Gavroche with Silvano Giraldin, seated
Michel Jr and Albert Roux at Le Gavroche with Silvano Giraldin, seated

Following the success of Le Gavroche, the brothers decided to open another restaurant in Cheapside, and in 1969 Le Poulbot was opened 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. It was awarded the Golden Plate by Egon Ronay in 1971, followed by a Michelin star.

In the 1970s, the Roux Brothers opened a charcuterie next door to Le Gavroche, which was managed by their sister. In December 1971 the brothers also opened Brasserie Benoit, later known as Le Gamin.

In 1972 a traditional pub in Bray, Berkshire, was acquired and transformed into a restaurant and cocktail bar, and renamed the Waterside Inn, which has held three Michelin stars since 1985.

Albert and Michel Roux at the British Travel and Hospitality Hall of Fame in 2016
Albert and Michel Roux at the British Travel and Hospitality Hall of Fame in 2016

In 1986 the brothers separated their business interests and Le Gavroche was taken over entirely by Albert while the Waterside Inn became the sole responsibility of Michel Roux Sr, now overseen by his son Alain.

Le Gavroche alumni include chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White, Marcus Wareing, Pierre Koffmann, Monica Galetti, Jun Tanaka, Bryn Williams and Phil Howard, as well as front of house alumni Diego Masciaga and Fred Sirieix.

Albert and Michel Sr founded the Roux Scholarship in 1983, which has gained a nationwide reputation as one of the top culinary competitions for young chefs. It was hoped to inspire more young British chefs to raise their game, and change the perceptions European chefs had of the country's cuisine.

The Roux Scholarship offers the winner a three-month stage at a three-Michelin-starred restaurant, and mentoring by the Roux family, with previous Roux Scholars including the late Andrew Fairlie, Sat Bains, Frederick Forster, André Garrett and Simon Hulstone.

Michel and Albert Roux with Andrew Fairlie
Michel and Albert Roux with Andrew Fairlie

Both brothers have won countless awards in Britain and France. As well as being awarded an OBE in 2002, Albert and his brother were awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1995 Cateys and the Silver Catey in 2008. The family also won Catey awards including Albert winning Restaurateur of the Year – Independent in 1988, while the Waterside Inn won Best Menu of the Year in 1984 and Le Gavroche won Best Restaurant of the Year in 1988. The brothers were inducted into the British Travel & Hospitality Hall of Fame in 2016.

Albert and Michel Roux being inducted into the British Travel and Hospitality Hall of Fame in 2016
Albert and Michel Roux being inducted into the British Travel and Hospitality Hall of Fame in 2016

The Roux family continues to operate the food and beverage offering at the Langham London, including the Roux at the Landau restaurant, and Chez Roux, which operates high level dining at major events and venues including the Wimbledon Championships, and a small group of restaurants in Scottish hotels.

Throughout the years Albert, with his brother Michel, published several culinary books. The first, New Classic Cuisine, in 1983 was followed by The Roux Brothers on Patisserie in 1986, and other books included At Home with the Roux Brothers (1988), French Country Cooking (1989) and Cher Albert (1994).

Albert was a champion and founding member of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts' Adopt a School programme, 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.

Speaking to The Caterer in 2017, he said: "It never fails to bring tears to my eyes looking at the kids, just seven or eight years old. They are so proud, wearing their chefs' hats and aprons, shoulders up, showing their parents what they can do.

"There are more schools now with their own gardens... There's nothing more enriching in life than putting in a little seed, nurturing it and helping it to grow. It opens up their knowledge and understanding about where food comes from. I will keep on doing it until my last breath because I think it is great for the future."

Albert Roux receives an 80th birthday surprise from Westminster Kingsway College, London
Albert Roux receives an 80th birthday surprise from Westminster Kingsway College, London

The Roux family has also been involved for many years with the Clink charity, of which Albert was a patron. The Clink restaurants are situated within working prisons and all of the food is prepared and served by prisoners in training, giving them the skills to find work in the future.

Albert and Michel Sr are viewed as the godfathers of modern restaurant cuisine in the UK. They put Britain on the culinary map; raised standards across the board through their ground-breaking Michelin-starred restaurants, TV series, and books; and trained and encouraged many of today's top chefs.

He is survived by his son Michel Jr and wife Maria.

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