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Caterersearch.com 100: Michel and Alain Roux

01 July 2010

Overall ranking: 18

Chef ranking: 5

Michel and Alain Roux - Snapshot

When Albert and Michel Roux's parents opened a small charcuterie in Paris after the war they could never have imagined the impact their two sons would one day have on British gastronomy. The Roux brothers, who started their culinary legacy in the UK by opening a little-known restaurant called Le Gavroche in London in 1967, are widely considered to be the doyens of modern restaurant food in Britain and are credited with having changed the face of UK dining. For more than four decades, through their multiple Michelin-starred restaurants, cookbooks, television appearances and their Roux Scholarship, they have upped the standard of UK cooking across the board and influenced generations of chefs both inside and outside their many restaurant kitchens.

Alain is Michel's son, and chef-patron of the three-Michelin-starred Waterside Inn in Bray, Berkshire. Leading the brigade in the Waterside's kitchen, he has maintained the standards set by his father and is a Master Pâtissier in the International Association Relais Desserts.

Michel and Alain Roux - Career guide

Born in Charolles, Saône-et-Loire, in 1941, Michel realised his culinary bent at a young age, starting his training in pâtisserie in Paris at 14. After cooking at the British Embassy in Paris he cooked for the Rothschilds and other wealthy families, with a break in between for military service - during which he also cooked at the officers' mess. Michel then followed his elder brother Albert to England, and in 1967 Le Gavroche in London's Lower Sloane Street was born (it moved to Upper Brook Street in 1981). In 1982 it became the first UK restaurant to hold three Michelin stars.

The brothers opened the Waterside Inn in the Berkshire village of Bray in 1972. It gained its third Michelin star in 1985 and in 2010 was awarded three Michelin stars for the 25th consecutive year, becoming the only restaurant outside France to achieve such a distinction.

Over the years the brothers have engaged in many industry enterprises, such as starting a catering service, which was bought by Compass in 1993, becoming Roux Fine Dining - with Albert as a consultant - and opening 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. Michel was made an honorary professor of Thames Valley University in 2006.

He rejoined his father in 1992 at the Waterside Inn as demi-chef de partie and was promoted to joint chef-patron in February 2001. In April 2008 Thames Valley University conferred on him the title of Honorary Fellow of the Faculty of Professional Studies.

Michel and Alain Roux - What we think

The Waterside Inn was awarded three Michelin stars for the 25th consecutive year in the 2010 Red Guide, making it the only restaurant outside France to achieve such status. At a celebratory party to mark the achievement, which was attended by almost all of the UK's Michelin-starred chefs, Heston Blumenthal likened the impact the Roux brothers have had on British food to that of the Beatles on British pop music.

"I describe the Roux Brothers as the Beatles of British gastronomy," he said. "There was food before and after the Roux brothers, but the quality of food in this country is that much better because of what Michel and Albert have done. I'm very proud to be their neighbour."

The "Awards and Distinctions" section of Michel Roux's CV takes up more than an A4 page, and includes such top honours as an OBE, the Meilleur Ouvrier de France en PÁ¢tissier, which he has held since 1976, and the Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur. The number of Lifetime Achievement Awards he's received over the years speak for themselves: an AA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007, 2008's Lifetime Achievement Award at the Tatler Restaurant Awards, a Silver Catey in 2008 and a Hotelympia Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. But his impact on the British culinary landscape goes much further than printed words on a resumé, and it's perhaps his and Albert's training and nurturing of countless young chefs, including industry leaders Pierre Koffmann, Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay, that will be their most lasting legacy.

In 1984 they set up the Roux Scholarship, in which 50 young chefs compete annually to win three months' experience in a UK or European three-Michelin-starred restaurant of their choice. Roux scholars who have risen up through the ranks include Michelin-starred chefs Andrew Fairlie, Simon Hulstone, André Garrett, Matthew Tomkinson and Sat Bains.

In 1999 Alain Roux joined the judging panel and now contributes to the organisation and continuity of this scholarship for young chefs. Since 2000 Alain has been a Master PÁ¢tissier in the International Association Relais Desserts, an occupation which keeps him in the company of the best pastry chefs in the world and involves attending some seminars abroad.

In 2009 the Waterside Inn's kitchen had a £1.5m refit, in which Alain Roux had a big say in terms of design and re-evaluating what he and his team needed from the new kitchen. Now holding the kitchen reins, there's the sense that Alain is taking the restaurant's food and team forward while still respecting the standards and foundations set out by his father, who remains ever a sparkling ambassador for the restaurant and the wider industry.

Michel and Alain Roux - Further information

Video: The Waterside Inn - 25 years of three Michelin stars >>

Michel and Alain Roux: A profile >>

Roux brothers pick up Hall of Fame award at Hotelympia 2010 >>

Read more about the Caterersearch.com 100, the list of the most influential people here >>

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