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Michel Roux, OBE (born 19 April 1941), also known as Michel Roux Snr. is a French-born chef and restaurateur working in Britain. Along with his brother Albert, he opened Le Gavroche, later to become the first three Michelin starred restaurant in Britain, and The Waterside Inn, which was the first restaurant outside France to hold three stars for a period of 25 years.
Michel followed his brother into becoming a pastry chef, and again to England in order to open their first restaurant. Together they have been described as the "godfathers of modern restaurant cuisine in the UK", and Michel has been inducted into several French orders, and has received two lifetime achievement awards from different publications. He was decorated during a period of National Service for France during the 1960s.
He founded the Roux Brothers Scholarship along with Albert in 1984, and has worked as a consultant for companies such as British Airways and Celebrity Cruises over the years. After he and his brother split the business in 1986, Michel took the Waterside Inn, which he handed over to his son, Alain, in 2002. He remains an active food writer and has appeared on television shows such as Saturday Kitchen, MasterChef as well as the Roux family centric series, The Roux Legacy.
Roux was born in Charolles, Saône-et-Loire, in a room above his grandfather's charcuterie (a delicatessen specializing in meat products). He moved to Paris with his family after the war, where his father Michel set up his own charcuterie, after not taking over the family business in Charolles. His father gambled away all of the family's money, and the shop was closed to prevent it from goingbankrupt. By the time Michel turned ten, his father had left the family and was not heard from again.
Michel's older brother Albert had already become a patissier (pastry chef), and Roux followed him into this field at the age of fourteen. He became an apprentice to Camille Loyal in Belleville, working seventy hour weeks. Michel's tasks at the pâtisserie included making up to sixty Galette des Rois over the course of three days for Epiphany. Albert found Michel further employment as his apprenticeship ended. As Albert was working at the British Embassy in Paris as a sous chef, Michel joined him there as the pastry chef for the Embassy. He moved on from there to become a chef in Philippe de Rothschild's service, while Albert moved to England to work there.Between 1960 and 1962, Michel served his French National Service. He was first stationed at the Palace of Versailles, but was later posted overseas in Béchar, Algeria. He was awarded the Médaille commémorative des opérations de sécurité et de maintien de l'ordre en Afrique du Nord.
Michel nearly decided to give up cooking to become an opera singer, but instead followed Albert to London, despite not being able to speak English. He would later recall that people thought he was mad for travelling to England in view of the fact that he considered the state of English cooking at the time was horrific, describing it as "the dark ages". In 1967 they opened their first restaurant, Le Gavroche at Lower Sloane Street in London. The opening party was attended by celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin and Ava Gardner. For the following week, Chaplin was reportedly shuttled across London so he could eat there. In 1972 the Roux brothers opened a second restaurant, theWaterside Inn, in Bray, Berkshire, and launched a catering business. In 1974, when Michelin stars were first awarded in the UK, Le Gavroche and the Waterside Inn were both amongst those restaurants to win a star, and when a number of restaurants won two Michelin stars for the first time in 1977, both Roux restaurants were among them. Le Gavroche would move to a new location inMayfair in 1982, and in the same year became the first restaurant in the UK to be awarded three Michelin stars. The same rating for the Waterside Inn would follow in 1985, but Le Gavroche would go back down to two stars in 1993 and never regain the three star level. In 2010, the Waterside Inn became the first restaurant outside France to hold three Michelin stars for a period of 25 years.
The Roux Brothers Scholarship was founded by Albert and Michel in 1984. It is an annual competition to select a single chef to send out as an apprentice. The first winner was Andrew Fairlie, and winners over the years have included Sat Bains (1999) and Simon Hulstone (2003). In 1986 the brothers split their restaurant business between them following a disagreement over the direction that their joint business should take, Albert took Le Gavroche, while Michel took the Waterside Inn. Michel became a consultant to British Airways for twenty years between 1983 and 2003, and for Celebrity Cruises since 1990. The Roux brothers' catering company was purchased by Compass Group in 1993, with Albert retained as a consultant.