The Roux Family Announce the Sad Passing of Albert Roux on the 4th January Aged 85
Not just the end of an era: The Chefs’ Forum remembers Albert Roux
At the 2009 Roux Scholarship awards evening, won by Hrishikesh Desai, Albert Roux said an interesting thing that stuck with Chefs’ Forum Editor, Chandos Elletson; He said
“All food should be (Michelin) three-star. Even scrambled eggs should be three-star!”
I didn’t forget that.
The following year I went to visit Albert with 2010 winner Dan Cox at his then home in the countryside. The purpose of the visit was to talk about scrambled eggs. Albert had agreed to show me how to make them.
In the end he gave the job to Dan Cox who was already familiar with the method. But first we went into his garden to meet the chickens who supplied the egss.
“You have to start with a proper egg”, Albert crooned as we admired his chicken coop and vegetable garden.
Back inside the cooking began. proper scrambled eggs, it turned out, should be cooked over a Bain Marie. In went eggs and butter. No seasoning. Dan stirred them slowly until they were homogenous. A process that takes a good fifteen minutes.
“You can’t hurry,” Albert said watching carefully. While this was happening, I asked him where he had learnt to cook scrambled eggs. “In private service,” he said, his eyes still watching the eggs. Dan thought they were ready. Albert told him to keep going a couple of extra minutes. They were finished with a splash of double cream to stop the cooking. Then seasoning. They were, predictably, the best scrambled eggs I had ever tasted. But that’s not the point of the story.
The real point, and the one a lot of people forget about the great Roux Brothers,is that they both worked in private houses. It is so easy to forget that the best cooks in the world before restaurants were common all worked in great houses. Albert was no exception. When he first came to the UK he worked at Cliveden when it was private and went on to become the chef at a house called Fairlawne in Kent which was then owned by royal racehorse trainer Sir Peter Cazelet.
Personally, I believe that’s what marked The Roux Brothers apart. They were not just classically trained in France but they also knew the English repertoire. When they opened Le Gavroche in 1967 they fused the two together into one inimitable style and the rest is history.
But the story, and their legacy, does not end there. The brothers were ambitious and to fulfil their dreams they began to train up a new brigade of chefs – French at first – Pierre Koffmann was an early recruit from France who began his UK chef life at Le Gavroche. But then the attention turned to British chefs most notably Marco Pierre White but there were many before him and after him who were trained by Albert before Michel Jnr took over.
The brothers founded the Roux Scholarship in 1984. The late Andrew Fairlie was the first scholar. It is still going. Without doubt the Roux brothers were the driving force of British gastronomy and without them the revolution of British chefs would have happened much later and much more slowly.
Following on from the scrambled eggs chez Albert the great man asked us to stay for lunch. We sat in his dining room with him at the head of the table. We ate cottage pie and carrots. A squeezy bottle of organic Heinz ketchup was present.
“You have to eat it with ketchup,” Albert pronounced. He was right. It was a joy to be at his table, to watch him eat and to watch his eyes as Dan had cooked that morning. I left feeling that I had seen a glimpse of what made him tick. I believe absolutely in his pronouncement that all food should be three star – even scrambled eggs. It is a lesson for every chef:
Don’t try and attain 3 stars. Simply set out to make everything you cook the highest standard possible. Do that and you won’t go far wrong.
The Roux Brothers will be missed by all of us here at The Chefs’ Forum and the industry in is entirety. It’s ironic that the restaurant business was struggling when they arrived and is so again. But this time with their legacy intact, it will come again and you can bet that the name of ‘Roux’ will certainly be a part of the next chapter.
Our thoughts and best wishes go to the Roux Family at this difficult time.
RIP Albert Roux.