A lasting legacy
When Michel and Albert first came to the UK they almost exclusively employed French chefs; in those days, they simply could not find British chefs up to their required standard. In addition, when Michel tried to take on some promising young British chefs and develop them with short periods of training in France, he was not taken seriously at all by the French.
Keen to find a way of distilling out the very finest British culinary talent and convince the rest of Europe – and particularly France – that they are worth a trial, Michel set up a scholarship scheme, which Nick Rowe, then Director of Diners Club, immediately offered to sponsor. The first candidates sent in their application forms in 1983 for the first award, which was won by Andrew Fairlie, now Chef Patron of the Michelin 2* Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at the Gleneagles Hotel.
Neither brother could have imagined that the Roux Scholarship would still be going strong today – or that it was as needed as ever. There were some setbacks along the way: when Diners Club eventually pulled out of sponsoring the event, it fell to Michel and Albert to keep it going. But when that meant putting their hands into their own pockets for a couple of years, it was done without hesitation.
Winning the Scholarship is deceptively simple. Entrants must be in full-time employment, at a particular level in their culinary careers and between the ages of 22 and 30. They progress through a series of regional heats, culminating in a national final, with six regional winners vying against each other for the title. The whole process is an enjoyable experience for the contestants and judges alike.
However, what sets the Roux Scholarship apart from other competitions for young chefs (of which there are more than a few nowadays), is the fully organised all-expenses paid three month internship at any three Michelin starred restaurant in the world. During that time, they can always expect a visit from one of the Roux family too, usually Michel, motivating and encouraging each newest member of the family.
The Roux brothers have trained around 800 young chefs over some 40 years or more. For Michel, it would have been a great loss if he hadn’t been able to do that and he remains passionately committed to continuing the Roux Scholarship in perpetuity.
“What I love most about this competition is the family of chefs that have grown up around me. I am hugely proud of every Scholar; it is a unique club. Everyone understands what it has taken to become a part of it so there is huge mutual respect. The love and camaraderie is genuine. It will always be my abiding passion.”