Michel Roux Jr. is a scion of one of England's greatest culinary families with a glittering career of his own to match. The son of Albert, nephew of Michel Sr., cousin of Alain and father to chef-in-training, Emily, this family essentially transformed the face of dining in the U.K.
It was in 1967 that French brothers Albert and Michel Sr. Roux opened the restaurant Le Gavroche, which came to be the first ever U.K. restaurant to be awarded one, two, and then three, Michelin stars. Former students of Le Gavroche include such acclaimed chefs as Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White, Marcus Wareing, Rowley Leigh, Paul Rankin, and, of course, Michel Roux Jr.
Michel Roux Jr. took over the reins from his father in 1991, gradually changing the style of cooking to his own – classic French with a lighter, modern twist. Besides running Le Gavroche, Michel oversees two other restaurants - Roux at Parliament Square and Roux at the Landau. In his “spare time,” Roux also appears regularly on television and has completed the London marathon an incredible 12 times!
The Daily Meal was lucky enough to get a glimpse in to how Michel Roux Jr. will be spending his Christmas, his memories of yesteryear, and how the Roux family incorporate French customs into a traditional British Christmas dinner. Here is his story:
“Christmas has always been such a special time in my family, and I have many fond memories of Christmas Day as a child. My father Albert Roux worked as a private chef for a wealthy family, so we would spend the holidays at their country house in Tonbridge, Kent. The entire family would join us there, cousins, uncles, aunts; it felt like there were hundreds of us, and it was fantastic. Of course we have all grown up now, our parents have become grandparents, cousins are now aunts and uncles, but we do still try and get the whole family together, or as many of us as possible.
Most years we close Le Gavroche for a couple of weeks and head to our home in the South of France, but this year for the first time ever Le Gavroche will open for the Christmas period, which I’m very excited about. Nothing beats that buzz of a full restaurant, especially during periods of celebration. You can really feel the happy energy of your customers and it’s infectious. So rather than heading off to the Ardeche, this year I will be spending Christmas in London with my wife and daughter and of course my Le Gavroche family, as I will be in the restaurant most days, including Christmas Eve.
Although I grew up in a French household, surprisingly our Christmases were quite typically British although there was a French twist on the celebrations and meals. Traditional British Christmas Pud was always a firm favourite, and funnily enough despite being a family of chefs, we’ve always used Mrs Beeton’s recipe for our Christmas pudding! Although we do use brioche instead of bread and of course add extra lashings of brandy.
In France, Christmas is centred around the table; it’s a gastronomic sensation. As you can imagine, belonging to such a foodie family, we are no exception. The French have their principal, most elaborate Christmas meal (le réveillon) on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day. Christmas Day is usually very quiet; with most attending a special church service or low-key get togethers with family and friends.
Having lived in the UK most of my life, I do it the British way and have Christmas dinner on the 25th, but like the French, our celebrations run over a few days. It’s similar with presents; in France presents are opened on Christmas Eve, which we do, but we always save some for Christmas Day.
Giving gifts is always such a lovely way to start the day, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who just can’t wait for the food. It is always quite a lavish feast, and everyone helps out both in the kitchen and with other chores around the house to help the day go by with ease. However I do believe it’s vitally important to enjoy the day and not spend the entire time tucked away in the kitchen. Preparation is key and anything that can be made in advance will always relieve some pressure on the day. That goes for everyone wherever you’re celebrating.
Usually we have roast turkey, my favourite being the “Kelly Bronze,” and as the festivities are over several days a goose will also be slow roasted until the skin is a dark mahogany; crispy and delicious. Sometimes I will also roast a leg of wild boar with a sweet spicy sauce rich with a reduction of red wine.
The cheese of course is also a vital component of Christmas dinner. Of course French cheeses are fantastic, and I am a huge fan, but I do love British cheeses as well so we often combine the two for the perfect cheese board. My personal favourite has to be Stilton, the king of the blue cheeses, served with a glass of port. As far as I’m concerned this is the perfect way to round off the meal. Then I have a well-deserved rest before getting cracking on the dishes!
Christmas with the Roux’s is always a blend of French and British traditions. I like to think we manage to have the best of both worlds.”
Try some of the Roux family's favorite Christmas desserts by following thees three recipes: