French chef Albert Roux, credited with transforming English dining, dies at 85

Albert Roux (C) and his brother Michel (R) receive their honorary OBE medals at the Foreign Office in London on October 31, 2002.
Albert Roux (C) and his brother Michel (R) receive their honorary OBE medals at the Foreign Office in London on October 31, 2002. © Adrian Dennis, AFP

Albert Roux, the French-born chef and restaurateur who along with his late brother Michel had a profound influence on British dining habits, has died at 85.


Roux died Monday after being unwell for a while, his family said in a statement Wednesday. The family did not reveal the location or cause of death.

In 1982, the brothers' restaurant in London, Le Gavroche, became the first British restaurant to be awarded three Michelin Stars. It was frequented by a loyal clientele that included many of the icons of the Swinging Sixties. The brothers took turns in the kitchen and dining room, seeking “to achieve a global reputation for service and the quality of their cuisine.”

Over the years, well-known chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White and Marcus Wareing trained at the restaurant that served French food in the well-heeled neighborhood of Mayfair.

Although it lost one star in 1993, Le Gavroche, which is now run by Albert’s son, Michel Jr., is still considered one of London’s most coveted places to dine and its reopening after the coronavirus pandemic is awaited by many.

“(My father was) a mentor for so many people in the hospitality industry, and a real inspiration to budding chefs, including me,” said Michel Roux Jr.

Broadened culinary horizons

Albert Roux was born in 1935 in the village of Semur-en-Brionnais in the central French region of Burgundy. After World War II, the family moved to Paris to run a new charcuterie and it was in the French capital where both brothers really forged their passion for cooking.

At 14, Albert became an apprentice pastry chef, and four years later he moved to England where he soon found work at the French Embassy. After his military service in Algeria, Albert Roux became deputy head at the British Embassy in Paris.

When he returned, along with his brother, to Britain in 1967, they brought their classical skills, particularly in pastry-making, to a restaurant scene that was old-fashioned and staid. The legendary La Gavroche was created, appealing to those who wanted to broaden their culinary horizons.

In addition to Le Gavroche, the brothers also opened a series of successful restaurants. Then, in 1972, they stumbled upon the Waterside Inn, a shabby old pub in Bray-on-Thames, west of London, which they turned into their flagship restaurant outside the capital.

In 1985, the Waterside Inn received its third Michelin star. It is the only restaurant in the world, outside France, to have retained three stars ever since.

The brothers separated their business interests in 1986, with Albert choosing Le Gavroche whilst Michel took control of The Waterside Inn.

In 2002, the brothers were awarded the Order of the British Empire honor by Queen Elizabeth II for their contributions to the field.

The Michelin Guide tweeted that Albert Roux, along with his late brother who passed away last year at 78, “was a father of the U.K. restaurant industry and his legacy will live on through the many chefs who passed through his kitchen.”

The Roux Scholarship, a cooking competition for up-and-coming chefs set up by the brothers and now run by their sons Alain Roux and Michel Roux Jr, said Albert Roux's legacy “will live on in the thousands of chefs he inspired and trained.”

The animal rights organization PETA also praised Albert Roux for his public opposition to foie gras.

“He famously said that, like cigarettes, it should carry a warning about the hideous suffering of the ducks and geese abused for its production," the group said on Twitter. "We’ll never forget him.”


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