Albert Roux, who has died aged 85, did far more to persuade and foster Britain’s restaurant sector than any other chef doing the job in the British isles. The roll-call of names that handed through the kitchens of his Mayfair restaurant, Le Gavroche, which he opened with his late brother Michel in 1967, is the classic who’s who of the culinary cheffing firmament. It incorporates Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsay, Pierre Koffmann, Phil Howard, Marcus Wareing and Rowley Leigh, each individual of whom in switch handed on what they had uncovered from Albert to so quite a few others.
He was firmly in the organization of unapologetic luxury. “We realized almost nothing of the British indifference to meals,” he at the time instructed me, of his early yrs in Britain, “because we had only ever cooked for the loaded.” Equally brothers experienced arrived in the country from Paris, as private cooks for the aristocracy, Michel for the Rothschilds, Albert for the Cazalets. It was their employers’ funds and contacts that enabled them to launch Le Gavroche.
The opening social gathering visitor listing bundled Ava Gardner, Robert Redford and Charlie Chaplin, the latter remaining chauffeured again each individual night time of the following week from his suite at the Savoy. He arrived for classics these types of as the gruyère-clad soufflé Suissesse and a lobster mousse with caviar and champagne butter sauce.
“When we opened up you could not get things like poulet de bresse in this country,” Albert later recalled. “So my wife drove to France to smuggle it back again in.” He was trying to prepare dinner French classics in a region where by some of the ingredients were seemingly illegal.
Le Gavroche became the first cafe in the United kingdom to get a person, then two, then in 1982, a few Michelin stars. Michel would have been satisfied with that one achievement, but Albert desired additional. The often tempestuous sibling partnership, inevitably performed out on a hilariously testy BBC cooking display, resulted in Michel heading to Bray to run the similarly thriving Waterside Inn.
Albert, as astute and irascible a businessman as he was a gifted chef, stayed in London, developing an empire that included brasseries, a traiteur and higher-conclude butchery, once more growing the culinary skills of the country’s cooks. At Le Gavroche that eye for business enterprise resulted in the set menu lunch, the value of which integrated fifty percent a bottle of incredibly superior wine from the incredible cellar he experienced worked tirelessly to establish. While the price has gone up above the many years, the lunch has normally been really good value and far more importantly, certain the dining place was comprehensive from first until finally past.
In 1991, aged 55, Albert handed more than the cafe to his son Michel Roux Jnr, who was intelligent plenty of to retain the spirit of the area, if not quite the similar quantity of double product. Albert ongoing to really encourage the subsequent generation by serving to his loved ones start the Roux scholarship competitiveness, and lived an incredibly great life. He ate his way around London’s places to eat and had a variety of wives and enthusiasts. The variety of grand, classical, butter-basted cooking he first brought to London can be dismissed now as a determined anachronism. But his legacy goes far further than the richness of his meals, to the richness and rigour of the culinary expertise he bestowed upon his adopted place.