Special Catey Award winner Michel Roux Jr has embraced new technology in a complete refurbishment of his revered Mayfair kitchen. Lisa Jenkins reports
T he kitchen at Le Gavroche runs like a well-oiled engine, so when James Lee of Eximius Projects was asked by chef de cuisine Michel Roux Jr and head chef Rachel Humphrey to do a turnkey refurbishment in just four weeks, he prepared himself for a challenge.
The last time such a project was undertaken at the two-Michelin-starred restaurant was 19 years ago when Albert Roux was in residence. Lee was part of the project team at the time and was delighted to have another chance to invigorate such an iconic restaurant.
Lee describes himself as a top-end kitchen consultant, as well as a partner in Heston Blumenthal's pub the Hinds Head in Bray.
He specialises in complete kitchen projects, and this one was designed from scratch to Roux and Humphrey's exact specifications.
"A refurbishment of the kitchen had been at the back of my mind for the past four or five years," says Roux. "We decided it was time to bite the bullet and really go for it.
"We knocked down the small chef's office, added a brand new pastry section and moved the pot wash. This changed the shape of the kitchen and allowed us to significantly increase the size of the pass."
Humphrey visited the Hinds Head to see some of its new equipment in action and was very involved in the discussions, ideas and development of the kitchen plans.
Rachel has amazing attention to detail and neither of them missed a thing," he says.
The kitchen was taken back to its bare bones. The new open-plan structure has seamless worktops, walls clad in white rock, a non-slip resin floor and new lighting, transforming the space.
Roux says he has finally succumbed to induction, a technology he is familiar with at home but previously reluctant to work with in a professional kitchen. The bespoke Menu Systems range from Exclusive Ranges is the hub of the kitchen.
Roux's only blast from the past is what he describes as "the big and beautiful piece of art" - the Rorgue Salamander - essential for the creation of Le Gavroche's signature dish, the soufflé Suissesse.
The main cooking suite is a bespoke Menu Systems induction range from Exclusive Ranges. Lee described it as "the only truly custom-built range on the market" and "a leading example of induction technology". It has slidecontrol temperature hotplates and pan recognition.
Menu Systems provided a drop-in induction range, sitting above an under-counter fridge from Precision.
The reconfigured prep area has an Elro Bratt Pan, a new technology for the kitchen. It is used for the creation of stocks and sauces in large quantities for increased yield, and Roux describes it as "fast and responsive with no hot-spots".
There are two Rational combi-ovens in the kitchen, which is a new technology for the brigade. Roux says: "I wonder why I am only just using them - they offer you so many options."
The open-plan kitchen radiates from the central Menu Systems induction range. The new pass is three times larger than previously, making the dressing of plates much more efficient.
There are two Winterhalter under-counter model glass washers in another separate section of the kitchen, alongside a Hoshizaki ice machine.
The new pot-wash area with a Winterhalter pass-through machine has streamlined the work of the KP team.
The only existing piece of equipment from the original kitchen is the Rorgue Salamander Grill, which is used to make Le Gavroche's trademark soufflé Suissesse.
The preparation area for meat and fish.
The new pastry section includes a Mono Bakery oven and under-counter refrigeration from Precision.
Refrigeration, blast-chiller and freezer units from Precision Refrigeration are scattered around the kitchen, in both traditional single-door and drawer models.