Thanks to SBS On Demand's online pop-up film festival, Feast on Film, you can watch Michel Roux Jr.'s for free throughout March. In his three one-hour docos, the talented chef and owner of Michelin-starred restaurant Le Gavroche leads us through the fascinating histories of chocolate, patisserie and "the first masterchef" Georges Auguste Escoffier. To watch the films, head here.
On stepping into his father’s footsteps when he took over London-based, Michelin-starred restaurant Le Gavroche: Replacing someone is very difficult to do in any business, but I suppose it’s more so in the chef world because you’ve got an identity – an identity that is very personal. Le Gavroche was already a world-famous restaurant and renowned for its style of food, so I didn’t want to – and didn’t have to – change much immediately. It needed to modernise slightly and reinterpret the classics, so that’s the way I continued. It’s still very much steeped in tradition and I think that’s part of the secret of its success.
On remaining relevant in the restaurant business: It’s a fine balance between being relevant and just being outrageous for the sake of being outrageous. There are plenty of those kinds of restaurants around. We’re about pure, unadulterated French cuisine in a more contemporary style, but still very recognisable.
“If the chefs of the late 1800s-early 1900s were to reappear and eat at Le Gavroche they would recognise their dishes. They may not agree with them, because there’d be a lot less cream, butter and flour, but [the dishes] would nonetheless be recognisable.”
On discoveries during the filming of Chocolate Perfection with Michel Roux Jr.: I learnt that eating chocolate doesn’t make you fat! Good quality chocolate, that is. I was travelling for 10 days in France, eating my way through some of the most beautiful chocolate shops and my word, it was good. But it’s fascinating, the history of chocolate. I could’ve done a show that’s six hours long! I only scratched the surface. (To clue up on the history of cocoa, read 10 ways to make your chocolate obsession sound healthy and watch the doco online here.)
On his biggest indulgence while filming his follow-up documentary Patisserie with Michel Roux Jr.: Oh my word, now on that one, I’m afraid, I did put weight on! I couldn’t help myself. I think I put on a couple of kilos during the 10 day shoot. I love the good old-fashioned fruit tarts. Things that are done with lots of butter, I can’t stop eating. Mind you, a Saint Honoré – puff pastry, cream and choux pastry dipped in caramel – is pretty good as well. (Watch Roux explore choux in the documentary here.)
On childhood memories of his uncle, Michel Roux (whose name he shares): I remember my uncle visiting and practicing for his pastry competition work. I remember him designing and pulling sugar, making sugar roses and things like that. As a child, that's very enchanting, something that sticks in your memory – to see someone create beautiful art out of sugar.
On making ice-cream with his dad: I remember making vanilla ice-cream with my father. I was probably only about six at the time. That wasn’t with an electric machine, it was a wooden bucket with crushed ice and salt to make the temperature go down. I remember helping him turn the handle to churn it for what seemed like an eternity, but I probably only did it for a couple of minutes. That vanilla ice-cream was quite something.
On his daughter Emily becoming a chef: I didn’t try to dissuade her. Although, my wife did try a little bit, because she knew about the hours and hard work cheffing involves. Ever since I can remember, my daughter’s always said she wants to be a chef. I can only encourage.
“If we’re wasting food just because we don’t like the sound of eating tripe, for example, I think that’s totally wrong. We have to open our eyes and open our mouths at the same time.”
On Georges Auguste Escoffier, the “first masterchef”: I think every chef, even now, will have a copy of Escoffier, or will have heard of him. He was the first one really to put down recipes in an order, and not just cooking recipes, but sauces, garnishes and so on. It’s like a bible. I still look now at The Escoffier Cookbook for reference and for inspiration. The man was a genius. His life was filled with controversies and this little documentary just highlights that as well – what a lovely, kind, warm-hearted man he was, but he was also a little bit of a womaniser, and also a bit of a naughty boy. (To find out more about Escoffier, watch the documentary.)
On nose-to-tail eating: In respect to the animal, we should eat every part of it. We shouldn’t be squeamish. Thankfully, times are changing and people are getting a little bit more adventurous when it comes to eating tripe, spleen, ears, cheek, head and tail. On another point, its about wastage. There will be a time when there’s not enough protein going around and we need to find other ways of feeding the world.
On why we should eat butter: Dieting, if it’s for true health reasons, such as being a coeliac or suffering from allergies, is one thing. Another thing is fads and diets just for the sake of it, or just because you think you’re going to feel better. Life is too short not enjoy yourself – not to spread butter thickly on toast.
Watch Michel Roux Jr. on SBS On Demand
- Chocolate Perfection with Michel Roux Jr.
- Patisserie with Michel Roux Jr.
- The First Masterchef: Michel Roux on Escoffier