Even as I read Michel Roux OBE's autobiography, Life Is A Menu, last month, the thought crossed my mind:
"He won't be here much longer."
But you're never quite prepared for that day. That day was today, March 12th, 2020.
Now the angels are eating three-Michelin star food prepared by one of my culinary heroes, Michel Roux OBE, father of Alain Roux of the Waterside Inn, uncle to Michel Roux Jr of Le Gavroche and beloved brother (though they loved to argue) of the legendary Albert Roux OBE.
You can read the details of Chef Roux's long and illustrious life and culinary career anywhere. But there was one thing that struck me as I read his autobiography. Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind. Or maybe, it really was the most boring autobiography I've ever read!
But I mean that in the best possible way. Believe me, it's actually a compliment.
I've read hundreds of autobiographies. Most of them are chock-a-block with so much gratuitous drama, so many affairs, so much salacious misbehaving that, while they make for great reading, you can pretty much assume that the person writing their autobiography is pretty darned personality disordered.
You would not want to know a person with an autobiography like that in real life.
That was not Michel Roux. He seemed like a normal guy. Famous, yes. But deservedly so. He worked extraordinarily hard and took his craft very seriously. And he loved his family!
He had three fine children, was decorated for his service in the French military, founded two great restaurants, smuggled vegetables from France into England illegally for Le Gavroche's menu, wrote several books, appeared on many television programs and argued endlessly with this brother, Albert.
Should the bottom of an omelette be blonde or have a lovely, golden sheen? They never could agree and I think of them and their argument fondly every time I make an omelette for my Michael.
Michel Roux was no Marco Pierre White throwing food on the wall for dramatic effect...but Marco Pierre White owes his fame to the knowledge and career trajectory he received while working at La Gavroche under Albert and Michel. He stands on the shoulders of giants.
In fact, the only chefs I've ever seen who carefully remove the green center of a clove of garlic and discard it as "indigestible" are...you guessed it: Michel Roux OBE and, the man who learned it from him, Marco Pierre White.
My only regret is that Michel and his brother, Albert, didn't make more episodes of the BBC's show, At Home With The Roux Brothers in the 1980s. Damn, they were good! Their constant sibling bickering translated hilariously from real life to the screen.
Now as I fondly stroke the cover of Sauces written by Michel Roux OBE, it's more dear to me than ever. Americans go to France for three things: the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and the food, specifically, those mysterious French sauces that make everything taste so much better.
Michel Roux betrayed the secret of haute cuisine sauces just as Penn and Teller betrayed the secrets behind "magic." Michel brought French sauces to the home cook and revealed just how easy and approachable they really are. For that, I'm so grateful.
And now I like to imagine him in the arms of his beloved wife, Robin, who passed away in 2017. Just imagine how joyous that reunion was!
Then I like to think he rolled up his sleeves and got busy in Heaven's kitchen, playfully slapping the hand of an angel who sneakily dips his finger in the sauce...just as he once made Princess Margaret unwelcome at Le Gavroche when she waltzed in without a reservation and acted like she owned the place. (He was new to England and barely knew any English at the time!)
Our hearts go out to the Roux family at this difficult time! We grieve with you. We love you. You are not alone!
Do you enjoy this blog?