Obituary: Albert Roux, trailblazer for gastronomy in the UK

Albert Henry Roux OBE, KFO, chef and restaurateur. Born: 8 October 1935 in Semur-en-Brionnais, France. Died: 4 January 2021, aged 85

Albert Roux was a lover of the Scottish Highlands
Albert Roux was a lover of the Scottish Highlands

Chef and restaurateur Albert Roux has died at the age of 85 after a lengthy illness. The French-born founder of the Michelin-starred Le Gavroche and part of the Roux culinary dynasty died on January 4.

A statement from his family announcing his death said: “Albert is credited, along with his late brother Michel Roux, with starting London’s culinary revolution with the opening of Le Gavroche in 1967.”

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Alongside his younger brother Michel, Roux founded Le Gavroche in London in 1967, followed by The Waterside Inn in Bray, Berkshire, in 1972.

Le Gavroche, known for its classic take on French cuisine, was the first restaurant in the UK to gain one, then two, and then three Michelin stars.

Albert’s death comes nine months after that of his brother, aged 78, following a long battle with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Born in the region of Saone et Loire in France on October 8 1935, Roux began training as an apprentice patissier aged 14 before taking up a number of kitchen posts. After serving in the military in Algeria, he worked as sous chef at the British Embassy in Paris, where he spent two years before leaving for the UK.

In April 1967, Albert and Michel opened Le Gavroche in Chelsea with only £3,000, borrowing the rest of the funds.

In 1988, Albert’s son Michel Roux Jr joined Le Gavroche and over a period of years took over the day-to-day management of the restaurant. He is now the chef/patron.

Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White, Pierre Koffmann and Marcus Wareing all passed through the La Gavroche kitchen during this period.

Outside of the kitchen, Roux was a keen fisherman and enjoyed trips to the Scottish Highlands. He told GQ magazine: “For me, the Highlands and islands of Scotland are paradise. I can have whole days where I catch nothing, but I still enjoy every second. I am a lover of nature and fishing allows me access to some of the most beautiful and secluded spots in the world." The Rouxs continue to run a small group of Chez Roux restaurants in a number of hotels in the region.

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He was married three times, with his final wedding, to Maria, taking place in 2018.

TV chef and MasterChef: The Professionals star Michel Jr paid tribute. He said: “He was a mentor for so many people in the hospitality industry, and a real inspiration to budding chefs, including me.”

The Roux Scholarship is an annual competition for up-and-coming chefs set up by Albert and Michel in 1982 to enable a new generation of chefs in the UK to train in some of the greatest restaurants in the world.

Now run by their sons Alain Roux and Michel Roux Jr, The Roux Scholarship said in a statement: “We are deeply saddened to have lost our founder and patron Albert Roux.

“His legacy will live on in the thousands of chefs he inspired and trained.”

Other tributes to the restaurateur poured in on social media.

Scottish chef and restaurateur Tom Kitchin wrote on Twitter: “One of the true culinary greats has left us... Merci chef. My thoughts are with the Roux family and the army of chefs you’ve influenced over the years.. You will be missed but never forgotten.”

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Food critic Jay Rayner tweeted: “Albert Roux was an extraordinary man, who left a massive mark on the food story of his adopted country.

“The roll call of chefs who went through the kitchens of Le Gavroche alone is a significant slab of a part of modern UK restaurant culture. RIP.”

Chef James Martin said: “Such a sad start to the year... Albert Roux was a true titan of the food scene in this country and inspired and trained some of the best and biggest names in the business.

“RIP and today I will open a bottle of the finest red and raise a glass – in fact, the bottle – to you and your brother and say thank you for everything. My thoughts to all the Roux family and friends.”

Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan wrote: “RIP Albert Roux, 85, just nine months after the death of his brother Michel.

“Two culinary titans who revolutionised the UK restaurant scene & mentored so many more great chefs.

“Both wonderful characters, touched by genius, who brought pleasure to many palates. Thank you.”

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Gordon Ramsay paid tribute to Albert Roux on Instagram, sharing a photo of the pair together and writing: “So so sad the hear about the passing of this legend, the man who installed Gastronomy in Britain, we’ve shared the same office for the last decade and walking up those stairs today is going to be really difficult, thank you Albert for everything you gave me, God Bless you Chef.”

A statement from The Michelin Guide on Twitter said: “Albert Roux OBE, along with his late brother Michel, was a father of the UK restaurant industry and his legacy will live on through the many chefs who passed through his kitchen.

“All of us at the Michelin Guide send our heartfelt condolences to the Roux family.”

Animal rights organisation Peta said on Twitter: “RIP Albert Roux. This multi-Michelin-starred French chef helped many people see that foie gras is animal torture.

“He famously said that like cigarettes, it should carry a warning about the hideous suffering of the ducks and geese abused for its production.

“We’ll never forget him.”