Celebrated French chef Michel Roux, who brought Paris-style fine dining to London in the 1960s and founded an enduring dynasty of chefs, has died aged 79 after an illness, his family said on Thursday.
Through successful restaurants, books, television programmes and a prestigious competition for chefs, Roux and his family have exerted almost unparalleled influence on Britain‘s foodie scene.
“Michel’s star will shine forever, lighting the way for a generation of chefs to follow,” the family said in a statement.
Born in the small town of Charolles in central France, he spent much of his early years in his uncle’s charcuterie, surrounded by hams, pates and terrines. The family later moved to Paris, where he became an apprentice at a patisserie aged 14.
The young Michel turned out to have a talent for the precise craft, and he went on to win many prestigious patisserie medals in France, as well as expanding his range to every area of haute cuisine.
Roux and his brother Albert burst onto the London dining scene in 1967 when they opened Le Gavroche restaurant on Sloane Square, a bold move at a time when the British capital was not yet renowned for sophisticated gastronomy.
Initially, the brothers took turns in the kitchen and dining room, but the restaurant was an instant success and they were soon able to go on a hiring spree.
Highly rated by critics and popular with Londoners, Le Gavroche won its first Michelin star in 1974, its second in 1977 and its third in 1982. It was the first restaurant based in Britain to obtain three stars, the ultimate accolade.
The Roux brothers branched out in 1972, buying the Waterside Inn, a traditional English country pub in the village of Bray on the bank of the River Thames in Berkshire, west of London.
They set about transforming the establishment into a chic restaurant and cocktail bar which also gained critical acclaim, winning three Michelin stars in 1985. Today, it remains the only restaurant in Britain to have retained its three stars for over 30 years.
Both Michel and Albert had sons who became acclaimed chefs in their own right.
In 1986, the brothers separated their business interests. Albert and his son, Michel Roux Jr, kept control of Le Gavroche, while Michel and his son, Alain Roux, continued to run the Waterside Inn.
In 1982, Michel Sr handed over the reins at the Waterside Inn to Alain. Le Gavroche is now based in London’s upmarket Mayfair district, and Albert’s son Michel Jr is still in charge there.
Michel Roux received numerous honours, including an OBE from Britain in 2002 and a Legion d’Honneur from France in 2004.