Iconic French chef and restaurateur Michel Roux has died at the age of 79.
Michel, who was hailed as the greatest modern champion of British gastronomy, co-founded the UK’s first Michelin-starred restaurant Le Gavroche with his brother Albert in 1967.
Le Gavroche also made history in 1982 when it became the country’s first eatery to receive three Michelin stars – followed by the brothers’ Waterside Inn restaurant in Bray, which also bagged three stars in 1985,
He had battled with the terminal lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in his later years.
In a statement, Michel’s son Alain and his daughters Francine and Christine said: “It is with deep sadness that the Roux family announces the passing of our beloved grandfather, father, brother and uncle, Michel Roux OBE.
“The family would like to thank everyone for their support during his illness. While many of you will share our great sense of loss, we request privacy for the family at this difficult time.
They went on: “We are grateful to have shared our lives with this extraordinary man and we’re so proud of all he’s achieved.
“A humble genius, legendary chef, popular author and charismatic teacher, Michel leaves the world reeling in his wake.
“For many, he was a father figure inspiring all with his insatiable appetite for life and irresistible enthusiasm. But above all, we will miss his mischievous sense of fun, his huge, bottomless heart and generosity and kindness that knew no bounds.
“Michel’s star will shine forever lighting the way for a generation of chefs to follow.”
The foodie retired from his business at the Waterside Inn in 2002, handing over the reins to his son Alain – but refusing to give up food altogether.
“A lot of what I do now is a continuation of what my father was working towards and what we worked towards together,” Alain told the Caterer in 2010.
“He still comes in and tastes all my dishes to give feedback.”
Michel was passionate about inspiring young chefs to get into cooking, and founded the Roux Scholarship in 1984 to allow amateurs to compete for three months’ experience in a UK or European Michelin-starred restaurant of their choice.
He said of the competition: “We wanted to help them grow by placing them on stages in two- and three-Michelin-starred restaurants in France but whenever we contacted colleagues over there, their response to the idea of a British chef coming to their restaurant was always: ‘Is this a joke?’
“It really annoyed me actually because there were some very talented boys who were ready to be developed further but nobody on the continent wanted to take them.”
He added at the time: “The idea was that if somebody won a competition and became a Roux Scholar, it gave them enough credibility so the chefs in France would not be able to refuse them. It gave us the chance to prove to the continent that there were some really promising young chefs in Britain.”
The competition helped launch the careers of chefs like The Cliveden’s Andre Garrett, Andrew Fairlie – who ran his own restaurant in Scotland until his death last year – Sat Bains, who has two Michelin stars to his name, and Simon Hulstone, who opened The Elephant in Torquay.
Michel last appeared on Twitter on March 6, when he retweeted a list of regional finalists from the Roux Scholarship’s account.
He had also appeared in person at the Waterside Inn on Saturday 15 for a evening of tributes to the late chef Gary Rhodes, who died in Dubai from a head injury last November.
Michel leaves behind his son Alain, daughters Francine and Christine. and brother Albert, along with his nephew Michel Roux Jr.
He had been widowed in 2017 when his second wife Robyn Joyce died following a two-year illness at the age of 66.
Michel had described Robyn as his “inspiration and support” throughout their 35-year marriage.