Iconic French chef Pierre Gagnaire is to join the Roux family as honorary president of the judges at this year's Roux Scholarship, which takes place on Monday (4 April).
The multi-Michelin-starred chef, known for his adventurous and revolutionary cooking, will head the panel of judges at the final which will take place at Westminster Kingsway College, London, next week. The prestigious chefs' competition will also be live streamed for the first time in the 33-year history of the awards ceremony, via the event's website www.rouxscholarship.co.uk.
Gagnaire, whose impressive 50-year career boasts a global restaurant empire with restaurants in France, Germany, the US, Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, South Korea, Dubai and, of course, London, where his restaurant Sketch also holds two Michelin stars, will be joined by first-time chairmen of the judges Alain and Michel Roux Jr. They will judge alongside leading chefs Brian Turner, inaugural Roux Scholar Andrew Fairlie, TV chef James Martin, who hosted his last episode of the BBC One's Saturday Kitchen at the weekend, David Nicholls, 2002 Roux Scholar André Garrett and 2003 Roux Scholar Simon Hulstone.
Scholarship founder Michel Roux commented: "I am so delighted to share the Roux Scholarship with my great friend Pierre Gagnaire who will judge alongside my son Alain and nephew Michel in their debut as joint chairmen. Quite simply, chef Pierre is a unique talent whose capacity for brilliant innovation is unrivalled and enjoyed across the globe in his acclaimed restaurants. No wonder he has been chosen by two of our scholars as their stage destination of choice, an incredible tribute."
Gagnaire, who turns 66 in April, said it was a great honour to be a part of the Roux Scholarship. "I have huge respect for the Roux brothers who were the pioneers of French cuisine in Great Britain. This is a unique event promoting our culinary culture and allowing the next generation of chefs to come out of the shadows for good. I hope I can live up to expectation, and I am really looking forward to the day."
Joint chairman Alain Roux added that he was looking forward to judging six "strong finalists" in the presence of Gagnaire. "It will be very special and, for the first time, we will be live streaming the awards ceremony to allow anyone without a ticket to share the excitement online via our website."
Le Pont de la Tour head chef Frederick Forster, who won the Roux Scholarship in 2000 and spent his stage at the three-Michelin-starred Pierre Gagnaire in Paris, said: "Mr Gagnaire is a chef I followed because I admired his use of seasonal products to create stunning, imaginative dishes. My time in Paris with him taught me to continually respect my ingredients and treat them in a way that allows the product to be cooked and shown at its best. Prior to going to Gagnaire, I would say that my style was overworked and complicated, when I came back, all that changed and to this day the philosophy of simplicity still remains. It has been one of the greatest experiences in my life."
2013 Roux Scholar Paul O'Neill, head chef at Hattusa at the Berwick hotel in Bristol, also staged at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris.
The six competitors will be briefed by the judges half an hour before the start of the competition when they will be given a recipe and ingredients for a main dish, to be served in either a classic or modern style. They will have three hours to prepare and present their dish to the judges.
The competitors are:
Martin Carabott, the Royal Automobile Club, London
Ben Champkin, L'Enclume, Cartmel, Cumbria
Scott Dineen, Goldman Sachs (BaxterStorey), London
Harry Guy, Eden Hotel Collection, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire
Paul Matthews, Fieldfisher (Vacherin), London
Tim Peirson, Kensington Place, London
The 2016 Roux Scholar will be announced on Monday at a glittering awards ceremony held at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London.
To view the awards ceremony via the live stream, go to www.rouxscholarship.co.uk at 7pm on Monday, 4 April and click on the link to watch as the Roux family reveals the name of the Roux Scholar 2016 in front of an audience of prominent guests.
The Roux Scholarship is sponsored by a number of companies including Aubrey Allen, Bridor, Cactus TV, The Caterer, Direct Seafoods, Global Knives, Hildon Natural Mineral Water, Champagne Laurent-Perrier, L'Unico Caffe Musetti, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, Mash Purveyors, Restaurant Associates and Udale Speciality Foods.