World-renowned chef Albert Roux dies aged 85

Albert Roux

Legendary chef Albert Roux has died, aged 85.

His passing was announced this morning by the Roux family, who said he had been “unwell for a while”.

Albert is credited, along with his late brother Michel Roux, with starting London’s culinary revolution with the opening of Le Gavroche in 1967.

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His son, Michel Roux Jr, said that his sheer 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.”

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

At the age of 14 he began his life-long passion with the culinary arts as he commenced his career as an apprentice patissier.

As a callow youth of 18, he came to the UK to spend time as a commis de cuisine in the old hierarchical environment within Nancy Aster’s country home at Cliveden.

Moving up the culinary ladder, 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 on to serve his Military Service in Algeria during which time he was invited on occasion to cook for the Officers’ Mess.

Upon leaving the military, Albert took up a post as sous chef at the British Embassy in Paris where he spent 2 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 happy years. It was the Cazalet family and many of their friends who encouraged and financially helped Albert to open his own restaurant Le Gavroche, which finally he did with his brother Michel in 1967.

In the last five decades, the Roux brothers have made a huge impact on the British food industry and upon Britain’s eating habits.

In April 1967, when they opened their first restaurant Le Gavroche in London’s Chelsea, they had £3,000 each and had to borrow the rest.  Working together, taking turns in the kitchen and dining room, they had one aim: to achieve a worldwide reputation for the quality of their cuisine and service.

At the start Le Gavroche had a small and selective menu. The ingredients were always fresh and of tip-top quality.

The brothers at first would go to market every day until they built up a circle of reliable and like-minded suppliers. They became pioneers of cross-Channel shopping trips.

In 1982 they received the highest accolade of all – three stars in the Michelin guide – the first restaurant in Britain to be so honoured.

In 1988 Albert’s son Michel Roux Jr joined Albert at Le Gavroche. Over a period of years Albert began to relinquish his day-to-day involvement until now it is Michel Jr who is Chef/Patron.

Following the success of Le Gavroche, the Roux Brothers decided to open another restaurant this time in Cheapside, and in 1969 Le Poulbot was founded 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. Very innovatively for the time, both breakfast and lunch were served to the busy business community and it soon won Londoners’ hearts as well as critical acclaim.

In the 1970s, the Roux Brothers opened a charcuterie next door to Le Gavroche, which was managed by their sister.

Seeing that their venture in the City had gone so well, in December 1971 the Brothers opened Brasserie Benoit, later known as Le Gamin. Its position had been carefully selected to be both near the Law Courts and the then-exciting and now legendary Fleet Street.

The waiting staff of the Brasserie Benoit wore the colourful national costume of Alsace reflecting the typical Alsacien food served in the restaurant.  Unfortunately, though tremendously well received, the costumes proved too heavy to work in and had to be discarded and the restaurant became Le Gamin – a street urchin who is the smaller brother of Le Gavroche.

In 1972 a traditional English pub was acquired and transformed into an elegant restaurant and cocktail bar and The Waterside Inn was born.  With each brother alternating his time between Le Gavroche and The Waterside Inn, the restaurant received many accolades including the Egon Ronay Golden Plate Award, three Egon Ronay Guide stars and was acclaimed Restaurant of the Year in 1981.

In addition, in 1985, the Waterside Inn achieved three Michelin stars and for a while the brothers made Michelin history by owning two three-starred restaurants.

In 1986 the brothers separated their business interests and Le Gavroche was taken over entirely by Albert whilst the Waterside Inn became the sole responsibility of Michel Roux Sr.  Le Gavroche is now led by Michel Roux Jr.

Over the years, chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White, Marcus Wareing, Pierre Koffman, Monica Galetti, Jun Tanaka, Bryn Williams, Phil Howard, Stephen Terry, Rowley Leigh, Paul Rankin, and Brian Maule  have all proudly earned their stripes in the Le Gavroche kitchen before going on to make their own contributions to the world’s food capital.

In recognition of his invaluable pioneering work in the field of sous-vide and his dedicated programme of the training of young chefs within his own kitchens, Albert was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Council for National Academic Awards at the University of Bournemouth in 1987.

In 2009 Albert was also awarded the Honorary Award of Doctor of the Thames Valley University in recognition of services to the hospitality industry.

Tags : Albert Roux OBE
Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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