Respect and Monsieur Roux

It was a month ago today that I met Michel Roux. Actually, that’s not quite true. I’d snapped a picture of him at the Cuisine NOW Gala Dinner on the previous Sunday. And, I’d eaten his course from the seven courses by seven chefs that cooked at that dinner. Why has it taken me a whole month to write this post you ask? In truth, I’ve written the post and re-written it and re-written it. How can I do justice to what was one of the most amazing experiences of my life (and I’m not just talking about the food …)

Before I tell you about Monsieur Roux or the food, let me share one other reason why this dinner was so important. My dinner companion for the evening was my Chef brother Rodney. We share similar classical foundations of taste, and so the enjoyment was increased while we delighted in discussing, the flavours, textures, balance, cookery techniques and presentation.

Not long after we arrived Monsieur Roux emerged from the kitchen to greet us. That moment was the true definition of serendipity. Totally unexpected, I heard a deep resonating French accent over my right shoulder and turned to see his piercing blue eyes. As I had already had a chance to browse through the menu, I seem to remember I muttered something about really liking eggs. Monsieur Roux smiled and responded “so do I”.

Dinner Menu
Friday 22nd of January 2010.

Chilled avocado soup, served with a sea trout tartar and yellow peach, garnished with a charolais soft cheese crouton

2003 Moet & Chandon ‘Grand Vintage’ Champagne, France

Flaked spanner crab with melon and fresh almonds served with marinated prawns

2007 Domaines Schumberger ‘Les Princes Abbes’ Pinot Gris

Poached egg in a pastry case with asparagus tips and mousseline sauce

2009 Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon, Margaret River, WA

Pan fried scallops served on a bed of lime scented carrot mousseline sauce

2006 Yering Station ‘M.V.R’ Marsann / Viognier / Roussanne, Yarra Valley, Victoria

Poached fillet of flounder filled with lobster mousse

2007 Phillip Shaw ‘No. 11′ Chardonnay, Orange, N.S.W.

Roasted loin of lamb stuffed with aubergine confit and grilled pine kernels, “gateau” of moussaka and a light saffron flavoured jus

2007 Vietti ‘Tre Vigne’ Barbera d’Asti, Italy

OR

Roasted Thirlmere duck with a lemon thyme jus, potato and garlic mousseline (minimum two people)

2005 Curly Flat Pinot Noir, Macedon Ranges, Victoria

Refreshing lemon dessert on a crisp biscuit base, sweet basil sorbet

2006 Wellington ‘Iced Riesling’, Coal River, Tasmania

Tea, coffee and my selection of petit fours

There were unexpected updates in the menu. While retaining a classical French base, there were other influences that had crept in. I’m sure his cuisine would have evolved from the food that Monsieur Roux would have cooked forty years ago. I later asked Monsieur Roux about the evolution of his food. He showed delight in the wider choice of produce that was not available when he started cooking. “Bok Choy” he exclaimed has a sweet delicate flavour.

For us, this meal was faultless. We delighted in each perfectly crafted component of each dish, the balance across each plate, and, the balance across the menu.  After all was said and done (and eaten), for me it was the egg that won.

Are you wondering why there are not more photos of the menu? It was out of my respect for a great chef. At the end of the night, I realised I had spent the evening calling him Sir. As for the pictures, I would have felt disrespectful photographing the food at the dining table, in front of the great man himself.  Before our choice of main, I went to the bathroom only to return and to find Monsieur Roux and Jean-Francois Imbert carving our duck at the table. How could I not give my undivided attention to this pinnacle of culinary art ? There would be no photographs!

After the main course, Monsieur Roux sat at our table and talked for a long time, through dessert until Cognac. Monsieur Roux “cooks for himself”. He cooks for others, what he himself likes to eat. The Master Chef spoke of respect for the ingredient, to have a focal point of the dish. He doesn’t like a longer degustation, requiring small portions that are only three to four mouthfuls. He prefers less courses and a larger representation on each plate.

Monsieur Roux advised us that young chefs have a lot of choices these days, not like when he started cooking. (Maybe due to this) he does think that there can be a lack of respect for the job from young chefs of today. “They don’t understand ingredients” and he elaborated that they don’t understand the roots of produce, it’s provenance.

And, most importantly in a moment in time, that will stay engraved in my memory, Monsieur Roux advised of respect for yourself. The patriach of British cuisine, gave this advise “be yourself, and do not search for happiness beyond that.”

It’s a new world.

After he’d left I saw a twitter message from Chef Luke Mangan saying it was him that had “coaxed” Monsieur Roux away. Later I asked Luke why he had called him Monsieur (a chef he knew well, with whom he had worked and trained and honed his craft, who described Luke as his friend). Luke sent this response “It’s called respect”.

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Comments for this article

10 Responses to “Respect and Monsieur Roux”

  1. Marlo Perry says:
    February 23, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Wow, what a great experience!
    The food sounds incredible. Just…eatable and enjoyable; ALMOST something you could attempt at home! :P

  2. Marlo Perry says:
    February 23, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    and yes, I did mean ‘eatable’. I don’t know how to describe what I’m thinking! hehe

  3. The Cooking Ninja says:
    February 23, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    wow! what a great dinning experience! I would be so in awe having a great chef sitting at my table to be able to eat anything. :)

  4. Rebecca Varidel
    Rebecca Varidel says:
    February 23, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    Eatable sounds fine by me!

  5. Fig and Cherry says:
    February 24, 2010 at 10:00 am

    So much food!!! And you met a legend, nice one :)

  6. Michelle says:
    February 24, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    OH MY…what an incredible dinner! I don’t blame you for not taking photos, I wouldn’t of either. I’ve met one of my idols in person and I shook his hand and I will never forget it!

  7. Y says:
    February 26, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    What a fantastic post. Now I’m wishing I had gone to this dinner! (ps: big fan of eggs too :) )

  8. PIERRE says:
    March 2, 2010 at 8:34 am

    hi rebecca this sounds like a great experience and the menu is just mouthwatering like this puff with aspargus and mousseline sauce !! great !!
    cheers from Pierre the french foodie in Paris

  9. Celia Hay says:
    March 13, 2010 at 9:04 am

    What a treat – to eat the food of Michel Roux and enjoy his company. Lucky you!

  10. Jennifer says:
    April 5, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    The food sounds delicious! I met Michel Roux once. I shook his hand and leaned in to kiss his left cheek. He leaned in to kiss my left cheek. We ended up kissing on the lips! A moment to remember and brag about forever! haha.

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