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Some 60 years ago, a 14 year-old boy was taken by his mother to be apprenticed to a Grand Pâtissier, north of Paris. For the next three years, Michel Andre Roux avidly pursued his craft, setting him on course for a spectacular culinary odyssey.

Born in the small town of Charolles in April 1941, Michel spent his formative years living over his grandfather’s charcuterie, surrounded by the wonderful aromas of patés, terrines and curing ham and bacon. However, it wasn’t until 1946, when the family moved to Paris, that Michel’s passion for cooking really began, inspired by helping his mother in the kitchen.

After his 3 years at the Pastry Shop in Belleville there followed a couple of years as pastry cook at the British Embassy in Paris. Michel was then taken on as a commis in the kitchen of Cécile de Rothschild’s household, rising to be her youngest-ever personal head chef. He still cites that period as “a life-changing experience” and considers the peerless Baronne de Rothschild as his greatest influence: “She schooled me in perfection, which I live and breathe to this day.”

Many medals and awards followed during the ’60s and ’70s, culminating in the Meilleur Ouvrier de France en Pâtisserie, which was presented to Michel by President Giscard d’Estaing in 1976.

By that time, Michel and his brother Albert had already opened Le Gavroche in London. When they arrived in the UK in 1967, they revolutionized the British restaurant scene, attracting a loyal clientele, with a guest book that read like a who’s who of actors and personalities of the day. A charcuterie followed – the first authentic one in London – along with a series of other restaurants, until the iconic Waterside Inn was launched in 1972. Michel always maintained it was love at first sight: he made an offer on the spot and never looked back.

A prolific author (with no less than 12 books, most translated into numerous languages; his pâtissier’s bible The Roux Brothers on Pâtisserie has sold more than 250,000 copies) and much-loved TV chef (the Roux brothers’ programmes on the BBC reached an audience of over 2 million viewers), Michel received the OBE in 2002 and the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 2004. Little wonder perhaps that the Roux family has been described as “The Beatles of gastronomy”, while Michel and his brother have been dubbed “the godfathers of cookery”.

Michel Roux, founder of The Waterside Inn, died in March 2020 after nearly 50 years at the helm of his beloved restaurant. He saw it achieve 3 Michelin stars in 1985, an accolade it holds to this day. His legacy both here in Bray and throughout the world of gastronomy is almost too vast to put into words.