Chef Michel Roux talks about his travels and growing up in his famously foodie family.
Then the next generation – Michel Roux Junior and his cousin Alain Roux – took over the mantle.
With your father Albert Roux being such an in-demand chef when you were growing up, what are your earliest travel memories?
“My very first family holidays, when I was seven or eight, I was sent off to grandmas and grandpas and uncles and aunties in France.
“Very nice memories, very cosy. I remember quite a few in the Dordogne, the Loire Valley and the Alsace region.”
What food do you remember from that time?
“My grandma was a very good cook, seriously good. She would always have something on the stove. She made food from all over France and used to take hours and hours in the kitchen.
“It was slow cooking, lots of stews and ragus, always loads of vegetables and cheese.
“That’s the style of food that I think I enjoy the most. Beautifully sourced ingredients, perfectly cooked, and not messed around with too much.
“I think that’s where you get the most joy out of food. Sometimes chefs cook for their egos or try too hard, and that’s where it gets lost.
“It takes a heck of a lot of confidence to stop adding things to a dish.”
What regional delicacies stick in your mind from your training in France?
“I worked in Lyon for two years and I must say I love Lyonnais food. It’s robust and rich.
“Pike quenelles are a speciality of that region, and they are lovely. They also eat a lot of charcuterie, a lot of tripe sausage, Andouillette, which I personally adore.”
When you travel these days, do you stick to what you know will be excellent, or do you like to be surprised?
“I love to be surprised, but mostly it’s a mixture. Recently I went to Copenhagen, and there I went with both. The tried and tested, Noma, was as good as ever, a truly amazing experience. Even better than the last time, and I can’t wait to go again.
“But also a place called Kødbyens, which was a recommendation from chefs in Copenhagen, and I was not disappointed. It was amazing! It’s in the meatpacking district of Copenhagen, and there’s nothing luxurious about it at all, but you get drawn in by the noise and the light.
“There’s a hum in the air, and a massive bar. It just ticked every box; I would recommend anyone to go there.
“It can be difficult to seek out those places. Do you use the Michelin Guide? The World’s 50 Best? Or online reviews? I think you should ask the taxi driver.
“In London, you ask a black-cab driver – where’s the best restaurant in town? Or, What feedback do you get? They listen to all the
“They’ll pick people up from a restaurant and ask, You enjoy your evening? They’ll give you their appraisals. Nine times out of ten cabbies love their food. It’s the same in New York.”
What are your top food cities?
“Copenhagen is fresh in my mind, an absolutely glorious four days of eating and drinking. But there are many. London now is up there with any gastronomic city to come and visit – it edges it on one point, and that is for the choice of great ethnic food.
“Paris is changing – it’s thankfully undergoing a culinary revolution with some great young chefs, forging their way and recreating some great national dishes.
“Hong Kong I absolutely adore as a food destination. It’s got a vibrancy, it’s electric, it’s fun – a great place to eat.”
What kind of traveller are you?
“It’s not unusual for me to clock up 20-odd kilometres walking in a day visiting a city. I think it’s wonderful. It’s a great way to see a city.
“Sitting on a beach reading a book? Not really for me. Many, many times with my wife we’ve just walked the streets until we’ve gotten lost.”
What places would you still love to explore?
“I’d love to explore South America – Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, places like that – and discover the food scene and the history and culture of the place.
“The ingredients and flavours are quite something, something I’d love to go and see.”