Michel Roux is not one to rush. Since opening Le Gavroche in London in 1967 and the Waterside Inn in the village of Bray five years later, the famed French chef has remained obsessively focused on his craft and extremely selective in his subsequent ventures — which makes a new restaurant from the Roux family a fairly big deal.
There were three reasons: Number one, the families, Rocco Forte and Roux, they complement each other. Their family business is very much in line with the Roux family business, and they have some of the most beautiful boutique hotels in the world. When you go to the Balmoral, well, it’s quite stunning. Number two, my son wanted a bit of a challenge, and he wanted to open something in the north, in Scotland. He’s been a few times and loves it. I’ve been to Edinburgh many times before, and I love it. And the third is that [my brother and I] opened the first brasserie ever in the UK [Brasserie Benoîts]. Our brasserie at the time was very much in line with what we’re doing at the Balmoral. What we were doing 40 years ago, we’re doing again today. So we’ve come full circle. It’s like fashion.
The legacy to see the young people develop and do better than the master later on, I find it very rewarding. So, I feel very, very proud. And I think to be able to cook three-star and to be able to cook bistro food, as well, you’ve got to know your classics. You’ve got to be modern, and you’ve got to be looking at the world. He has been traveling a fair bit. He’s been consistent. My son is not a guy who makes a lot of noise. He is very reserved, but he’s got some discipline, and he’s very good at cooking and pastry. I think he is not doing badly, the boy.
He’s totally in charge. He contacts me when he needs me. He does the dishes . . . and invites me to test the dishes. I love eating more than cooking now because it’s more relaxing. I’m happy to cook for six hours, but the time of 10, 12, 14 hours in the kitchen is over for me. So, yes, he consulted me, but he consulted me when he felt like it. I mean, he’s 50 years old and has been working with me for over 20 years. I think he knows his stuff.
He’s choosing some real dishes—brasserie dishes. Real food. Simple food. Like a lot of chefs, what is their favourite food? Bistro food. They don’t want to eat sophisticated food. So he’s been consulting the menu of [the brasserie] we opened in the ’70s in London, and he’s going to serve some of the dishes we were serving. You’ve also got dishes that will honor his grandmother, my mom. We will have tripes de Saint-Mandé on Mondays; black pudding on Tuesdays; veal blanquette on a Wednesday; on Thursday côtelettes d’agneau [lamb cutlets] Germaine—Germaine was my mother’s name; on Friday truite meunière [sautéed trout], very classic; then on Saturday we’ll have rabbit leg with mustard sauce; and on Sunday we’ll have beef bourguignon. We’ll have onion soup, gnocchi, frog legs, scallops, chicken quenelle, smoked duck, brown crab—in Scotland, you have the beautiful seafood. So many dishes! Obviously, we might have to reduce the menu a bit. Alain is being very ambitious!
If we’re talking about three-star Michelin, he’s cooking more in line with the food today, using more what I would call new techniques and produce and herbs from the new world. Not much, but a little touch of that—it’s not fusion, let’s not get carried away there. It’s French food that he has developed to his own style and his own taste.
It’s so much different that it’s not fair sometimes. In the ’60s and ’70s, you had to be a cook, a very good cook. You had to be a waiter at the front of the house—smile and serve food and so on. Now you look at what people do when they are eating—tweeting or sending a photo of their food, which I find pretty appalling. Sometimes they’re going for a cigarette in the middle of the meal. Those things would have never happened, you know. People were eating, enjoying their food and their drink, and the conversation was nice and soft. If something was not right, they would have pointed it out.