Chef and restaurateur Michel Roux dies aged 78

Celebrated French-born chef Michel Roux Snr., who founded Le Gavroche and The Waterside Inn along with his brother Albert, has died at the age of 78.

Michel Roux with his son Alain.

Roux passed away on Wednesday evening surrounded by his family at his home in Bray, Berkshire. It is believed he was suffering from a chronic lung condition.

In a statement, Roux’s son Alain and daughters, Francine and Christine, said: “It is with deep sadness that the Roux family announces the passing of our beloved grandfather, father, brother and uncle, Michel Roux OBE. The family would like to thank everyone for their support during his illness. While many of you will share our great sense of loss, we request privacy for the family at this difficult time.

“We are grateful to have shared our lives with this extraordinary man and we’re so proud of all he’s achieved. A humble genius, legendary chef, popular author and charismatic teacher, Michel leaves the world reeling in his wake. For many, he was a father figure inspiring all with his insatiable appetite for life and irresistible enthusiasm. But above all, we will miss his mischievous sense of fun, his huge, bottomless heart and generosity and kindness that knew no bounds. Michel’s star will shine forever lighting the way for a generation of chefs to follow”.

Michel Roux’s nephew, Michel Roux Jr., tweeted: “Thank you for all your love and messages. My uncle Michel is now busy in heaven making sure the soufflés are perfectly risen, the choux buns crisp and full, and Champagne is generously poured for all.”

Having almost decided to quit cooking to become an opera singer, Michel instead left France for England with his brother. The pair opened Le Gavroche in 1967, a restaurant which went on to become the first restaurant in Britain to be awarded three Michelin stars. In 1972, the brothers opened their second restaurant, The Waterside Inn, in Bray. The eatery is the longest-standing starred restaurant in the UK. It was awarded its first star in 1974 and reached three stars by 1985, an accolade it has retained to this day.

In 1986 the restaurant business was split, with Michel taking The Waterside Inn and Albert retaining control of Le Gavroche. Alain, Michel’s son, now runs The Waterside Inn having taken the helm in 2002.

Aside from his restaurants, Michel is well-known in the industry for inspiring a generation of chefs. In 1984 he helped found the Roux Scholarship, a competition still considered one of the most prestigious in the sector. Past winners have included Sat Bains, Andrew Fairlie, Mark Birchall and Steve Drake.

In 2002, he was awarded an OBE for services to cooking, followed by France’s highest honour, the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, in 2014.

In 2010, Michel estimated that as many as half of the Michelin star holders in Britain had trained in either his or his brother’s restaurant. Over the course of his life he has written 15 books, and opened a new restaurant in 2018 with his son, called Roux at Skindles.

Tributes have poured in from the hospitality industry following the news.

The Michelin Guide called Roux a “true titan of the hospitality” praising his role in inspiring young chefs. “The UK restaurant scene would not be what it is today were it not for his influence,” the statement read.

Gordon Ramsay tweeted that the industry had lost an “absolute legend” who had helped “put Britain on the culinary map”, while James Martin said he “broken” by the news and that “words cannot describe what this man did for me in my life.”

Raymond Blanc called the Michel and Albert “pioneers who changed the whole gastronomy in the UK”.

Chef Rick Stein said: “[I was] enormously fond of him, a great Frenchman, a touch formal, endearingly proud of what he and Albert had achieved; generous and completely serious about good food.”

Chef Pierre Koffmann told Bloomberg’s Richard Vines: “The Waterside Inn was at the very top of the UK culinary industry for many years because of him, and he always knew how to take care of his guests. He was a great host with a very entertaining sense of humour.”

Vines also tweeted a commented from Marco Pierre White: “The great Michel Roux Sr, like Anthony Bourdain, created a movement, not a following. With respect and admiration, Marco Pierre White.”

The family said that there would be a private funeral with a “celebration of life event” held later in the year.

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