Le Gavroche at Forty

May 1, 2007

Its four decades since London got a taste of the Roux brothers’ fine French cooking at Le Gavroche, and the restaurant is still very much a family business.

This seminal restaurant was opened in Lower Sloane Street in London in the spring of 1967 by two young, keen and exceptionally talented Frenchmen, Albert and Michel Roux. The older of the two, Albert (now aged 72), had been working in England as a private chef to the Cazalet family for eight years and generously puts all the early success of the restaurant at their feet.

Then, as now, the restaurant attracted huge amounts of publicity, and of course became one of the most sought-after places to work. Albert and Michel took the idea of training seriously, and although the regime was one of the toughest, those that made it through had – and still have – a good chance of making it to the top of the business. Indeed, most of the country’s biggest names in catering have spent formative years in the kitchen at Le Gavroche.

Lighter touch

Michel Jnr’s hand at the pass has changed more than the extent of the fireworks in the kitchen. His is a younger, lighter touch. Giraldin comments: “His cooking is more modern and fresh. Watching him steer the kitchen from his father’s cooking to follow his own path has been very impressive.”

Le Gavroche family tree

Pierre Koffmann Former proprietor, La Tante Claire, London, now chef-consultant
Christian Delteil Former managing director, Bank Restaurant Group, now chef-consultant
Michael Hutchings Personal chef-caterer, California
Paul Grout Co-owner, Butcher & Grill, London
Stephen Doherty Executive chef, First Floor Café, Lakeland, Windermere, Cumbria
Rowley Leigh Chef-proprietor, Le Café des Anglais, Bayswater, London
Robert Mabey Chef-proprietor, Regatta Restaurant, Aldeburgh, Suffolk
Roger Narbett Chef-proprietor, the Chequers, and the Bell & Cross, and chef to the England football team
Paul Rankin Chef-proprietor, Rankin Group
Mark Raffan Chef-proprietor, Gravetye Manor, East Grinstead, West Sussex
John McManus Executive chef and operations manager, Queenwood Golf Club, Ottershaw, Surrey
Gordon Ramsay Chef-proprietor, Gordon Ramsay Holdings
Stuart Oetzmann Proprietor, Metfield akery, Dereham, Norfolk
Marcus Wareing Chef-patron, Pétrus, London
Mark Prescott Chef-proprietor, Mulberry Tree, Wrightington, Lancashire
Stephen Terry Chef-proprietor, the Hardwick, Abergavenny, Gwent

Max Gnoyke Managing director, Heathcotes Restaurants
“I was on the fish with Marcus as my commis Gordon was on the sauce with Steve Terry as his commis. Le Gavroche was a bastion of excellence – all down to Albert and Michel in the kitchen and Silvano in the restaurant. We used to run around like lunatics for 20 hours. It was sheer bloody hardy work – we did three days’ work in one day. There was no slack from what seemed like 5am on Monday morning to 2am on Saturday morning. Nothing short of perfection was good enough. It has now become de rigueur to use the best producers and understand where the product came from – Le Gavroche was doing that back then, but didn’t shout about it.”

Steve Williams Executive chef, Stanley House, Mellor, Lancashire
Thierry Busset Pastry chef, CinCin, Vancouver, Canada
Brian Maule Chef-proprietor, Brian Maule at Chardon d’Or, Glasgow
Darren Simpson Chef-proprietor, La Sala restaurant, Sydney & one of Australia’s premier television chefs
Martin Wishart Chef-proprietor, Restaurant Martin Wishart, Leith, Edinburgh
Marco Pierre White Restaurateur
Andrew Fairlie Gleneagles, The first Roux Scholar – 1985

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