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In 2021, the world of cooking lost a legendary figure. Albert Roux, together with his brother Michel, transformed the way we eat, cook and appreciate food in this country. It is no exaggeration to say that most of what makes our current culinary landscape so vibrant began with these two brothers and their ground-breaking restaurant, Le Gavroche.
Albert first arrived in England in the fifties, at a time of grey and brown food, with a nation still reeling from the effects of war and rationing. Cooking in the grand private houses of the aristocracy, he was to fall in love with the country and, after his military service, which he spent fighting in the Algerian Civil War, he would eventually make it his home for life. He and his brother set up Le Gavroche in 1967. It was to become the first restaurant in the UK to gain first one, and eventually three, Michelin stars. Together with their other restaurants, including the renowned Waterside Inn in Bray, it would go on to revolutionise the industry. The Roux restaurants set on their course an entire generation of award-winning chefs: his protégés include Gordon Ramsay, Marcus Wareing, Rowley Leigh and Monica Galetti, to name just a tiny fraction. He won every plaudit possible in the world of food, and was granted an OBE, a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, and a papal knighthood.
Albert’s memoir takes us from his childhood in wartime France, where the ever-looming presence of the German troops made it a challenge for his mother to keep the family fed, right up to the almost instant success of Le Gavroche, which welcomed everybody from royalty – the Queen Mother and Princess Diana were both regulars – to Hollywood legends including Charlie Chaplin. He talks frankly about his famed relationship with his brother, and about the encounter which derailed his first boyhood ambition to join the priesthood. His drive, humour and joie de vivre leap off every page, and the insight into what it took to break new ground in the restaurant industry is unmatched.
These are the last words from a pioneer, a hero who inspired entire generations of chefs. They tell the story not only of a titan of a man, but of an era that shaped the way we cook and eat today.
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