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Interview: Michel Roux Jr

18 June 2014 Jessica Johnston

“There is no simpler dessert to make but it is so damn good!”

Following a long (and rather enviable) search for the perfect chocolate to serve at his two Michelin-starred restaurant Le Gavroche, Michel Roux Jr takes some time out from the chaos of the kitchen to have a chat with London Calling.

London Calling: So what inspired you to find the perfect chocolate?

Michel Roux Jr: Well for starters I love chocolate! But I was also curious to find out what has influenced the tastes of our chocolate, what goes into the chocolate and how to design a particular bar of chocolate.

LC: Was it a light bulb moment when you discovered the perfect chocolate?

MRJ: No, it was very much a gradual process of refining the taste. I went to a factory in France where they tailor make chocolate to your taste. I tried loads of different chocolates from various parts of the world and then began whittling them down to my preferred flavour profile of what I consider to be a really good dark chocolate.

LC: How would you describe the taste of the perfect chocolate?

MRJ: It’s very sweet and very chocolaty, I know that sounds odd but it really has got a pure chocolate taste. There is also a little bit of fruitiness and acidity coming through in the flavour. The flavour combinations of chocolate are very much dependent on where the cocoa bean comes from and how it is fermented. It’s not too dissimilar from grapes and wine actually.

LC: What’s your favourite chocolate dish?

MRJ: I am a glutton for chocolate mousse. There is no simpler dessert to make but it is so damn good!

LC: Taste of London is returning to Regents Park this week, what culinary delights will you be cooking up?

MRJ: Well I’m running a little restaurant as usual so we’ve got some really hearty, simple and delicious food. I think very often restaurateurs and restaurants get carried away with presentation, for me it should all be about the taste. That is why it’s called Taste of London.

One of the dishes we will be cooking this year is braised belly and braised cheek of pork, served on a soft cheesy polenta and a Balvenie whisky sauce. This dish in particular has a lovely, rich aromatic taste and you don’t really need a knife you can just use a spoon ... or a shovel!

LC: What is it about Taste of London that attracts some of the best chefs from around the world?

MRJ: Well it’s just a great party atmosphere and it’s in the middle of one of the most beautiful parks in London. There are over one hundred different contributors at this year’s festival, forty restaurants, loads of great chefs and so much for everyone to get involved in! From whisky tutorials to wine tastings and cooking demonstrations, so if you like your food and drink it is the place to be.

LC: How do London food markets compare with those in Europe?

MRJ: I think they are up there with the best, most definitely. Britain has got some wonderful ingredients and beautiful produce up and down the country. Not to mention we have some excellent home-grown chefs with fantastic talent. Put the two together and its win win.

LC: What was the best advice your father gave you when you started out as a young chef?

MRJ: My father led by example. He showed me the way to becoming a good chef is by getting your head down, working hard and never complaining. Just do it.

LC: Is this the same advice you would give to your daughter Emily, who is following in your footsteps?

MRJ: Yes, again leading by example. She has seen me working long hours and she is working equally long hours now. I’m not saying that you have to work long hours to be successful but it certainly helps.

LC: Why are there so few top female chefs?

MRJ: Well there are actually many top female chefs but unfortunately they don’t seem to get the recognition they deserve.  There is no reason why they shouldn’t, they are definitely out there. My kitchen at Le Gavroche has some wonderfully talented female chefs, Sous Chefs Monica and Renee and Head Chef Rachel who has been with me for 18 years.

LC: What is the secret of Le Gavroche’s continued success?

MRJ: We have stayed very true to our origins and roots. We are French and we are classical and people flock to this restaurant because of that.

LC: If you weren’t a chef what career path would you have taken?

MRJ: In another life I would perhaps consider a career as a professional athlete.  Although I’m not convinced I would be good enough...maybe I would.

For futher information and table bookings at Le Gavroche, please click here.

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