Albert Roux, Chef Who Brought French Cuisine to London With Le Gavroche, Dies at 85 – The New York Times

Albert Roux, Chef Who Brought French Cuisine to London, Dies at 85

Mr. Roux and his brother, Michel, opened Le Gavroche in the late 1960s, raising the level of fine dining in the city and offering a training ground for some of the restaurant industry’s future stars.

Credit…Mike Egerton – PA Images via Getty Images

Albert Roux, the French-born chef whose London restaurant Le Gavroche was the first in Britain to earn three Michelin stars, died on Monday. He was 85.

His death was confirmed in a statement on the restaurant’s website, citing Mr. Roux’s family.

The statement said that Mr. Roux “had been unwell for a while” but did not give a cause of death or say where he died. Mr. Roux’s publicist, Shelley Sofier, said he died in London.

Mr. Roux and his brother, Michel, who died last year, brought fine dining to a new level in London with the opening of Le Gavroche in 1967 on Lower Sloane Street in Chelsea. It was named after a character in Victor Hugo’s novel “Les Misérables,” a young boy whose name has become synonymous with the word “urchin.”

Le Gavroche was the only restaurant to offer classic French cooking in London at the time.

It was also the first restaurant in Britain to be awarded one, two and then three Michelin stars, and it was the first Michelin-rated restaurant to offer a set-price lunch.

It was awarded its third Michelin star in 1982. Mr. Roux described the awarding of that star as “the realization of my life’s goal.”

Le Gavroche, which moved to Mayfair in 1982, currently has two Michelin stars.

“He was a mentor for so many people in the hospitality industry, and a real inspiration to budding chefs, including me,” Mr. Roux’s son, Michel Jr., who has run the restaurant since 1991, said in the statement.

Albert and Michel Roux were made honorary officers of the Order of the British Empire in 2002.

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Credit…Adam Butler/Alamy

The Michelin Guide for Britain said on Twitter that Mr. Roux was “a father of the U.K. restaurant industry” and that “his legacy will live on through the many chefs who passed through his kitchen.”

Among those chefs were Pierre Koffmann, Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay. In an Instagram post on Wednesday, Mr. Ramsay described Mr. Roux as a “legend, the man who installed Gastronomy in Britain.”

Albert Henri Roux was born on Oct. 8, 1935, to Henri and Germaine (Triger) Roux in Semur-en-Brionnais, in the Burgundy region of east-central France.

At 14, he began working as an apprentice pastry maker. But it was in England, where he moved when he was 18, that his life’s work as a chef blossomed.

He found work as a commis de cuisine, or kitchen assistant, in the Cliveden home of the British politician Nancy Astor, and then spent a year at the French Embassy in London. His first job as a chef was in the Mayfair home of Sir Charles Clore, one of the most prominent figures in the British financial world at the time, according to Mr. Roux’s official biography.

After serving in the French military in Algeria, Mr. Roux took up a post as sous chef at the British Embassy in Paris, where his brother later joined him. Albert Roux stayed for two years before leaving for Britain, where he began cooking for Peter Cazalet, trainer of the queen’s racehorses, in Kent.

With the financial backing and encouragement of the Cazalet family and their acquaintances, Mr. Roux and his brother opened Le Gavroche in April 1967.

Over the decades that followed, Mr. Roux became a national celebrity in Britain, and he and his brother were celebrated as the country’s most notable French chefs. Together they hosted a popular cooking series on the BBC and wrote best-selling books, including “New Classic Cuisine” (1983) and “At Home With the Roux Brothers” (1988).

The brothers also operated several bistros and brasseries in London. Their culinary empire included the Waterside Inn, a three-star restaurant in Bray that was patronized by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who arrived there in her royal barge.

Mr. Roux and his son had recently opened two restaurants in Scotland, where Mr. Roux liked to go fishing.

In 1986 Mr. Roux set his sights westward, to Santa Barbara, Calif. There he invested in his first American gastronomic venture, Michael’s Waterside Inn, which was established by an American protégé, Michael Hutchings.

The year-round mild climate, abundant fresh produce and seafood appealed to Mr. Roux. And he had much to say about the American culinary possibilities in California, where the vegetables may “look more beautiful” than French or English vegetables, but “they do not taste as strong.”

He told The New York Times in 1986 that America’s beef was “unbeatable” and its veal “fantastic,” but that its lamb, though tender, left “a little bit to be desired.” Still, Mr. Roux said Americans were becoming “alert to what they have around them rather than go and import it.”

In addition to his son, Mr. Roux’s survivors include his wife, Maria Rodrigues; a daughter, Danielle, from his first marriage, which ended in divorce in 2001; four grandchildren; and a great-grandson. Mr. Roux’s second marriage, to Cheryl Smith, ended in divorce in 2016.

In 1984, Albert and Michel Roux created the Roux Brothers Scholarship, a prestigious annual competition intended to develop Britain’s future star chefs with apprenticeships and coaching.

Asked in a 2016 interview, “What drives you on?,” Mr. Roux answered: “Wanting to train and help people. I get such happiness from training chefs, ‘making a racehorse out of a donkey’ as I say. I never give up on people.”