One of the London restaurant world’s most formative figures, Albert Roux, died aged 85 on 4 January, the Caterer reports. With the opening of Le Gavroche in Mayfair in 1967, Roux — alongside his late brother Michel and son Michel Roux Jr — laid the foundations for a tradition of French fine dining that holds sway over the capital to this day.
In a short statement announcing his death, Roux Jr said:
He was a mentor for so many people in the hospitality industry, and a real inspiration to budding chefs, including me.
Le Gavroche was the first London restaurant to win one, two, and then three Michelin stars — the latter in 1982. It has held two since 1993. The family opened further restaurants in the city, including Roux at the Landau, which closed temporarily in 2020, and Roux at Parliament Square, which closed permanently in 2020, but Le Gavroche remained the clearest, most important, and by far the most famous, expression of the Rouxs’ approach to cooking. Steering away from evolutions in their home country’s cooking, including nouvelle cuisine, many of its dishes have remained on the menu for decades or indeed since opening over 50 years ago, including a soufflé suissesse and omelette Rothschild, made with oranges and Cointreau. This steadfastness solidified the restaurant’s fame and magnetism, as well as, in later years, contributing to a comparative staidness as the London dining world it once ruled changed over time.
Though not at the cutting edge of cuisine in London, in 2016, Le Gavroche, by then under the leadership of Michel Roux Jr., was back in the headlines. The chef admitted to processing service charges as revenue, and by extension denying its employees thousands of pounds in tips, which the government had previously ruled “should be received by the worker.” Roux Jr. apologised after a Guardian investigation found that the restaurant had been paying chefs as little as £5.50 per hour despite working 68 hours a week.
The likes of Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White, Pierre Koffmann, Monica Galetti, and Marcus Wareing, all of whom would go on to run hugely influential restaurants of their own, trained under the Roux brothers at the restaurant. While it and they would later be overtaken by both contemporaries and new pacesetters in the Modern British and international realms, Le Gavroche remains a lodestar for many chefs, and its influence and Roux’s legacy will endure for many decades more.