Chefs who don’t act thriftily and waste food don’t last long at Le Gavroche, Michel Roux Jr has revealed.
The chef, who took over the reins of the London restaurant from his father Albert in a recession-hit 1990, drums into every recruit to his kitchen the importance of using all parts of a vegetable, an animal or a fish.
“I hate waste,” he said. “It’s something we’re always wary of. The majority of restaurants that aren’t achieving their margins are failing because of waste.”
Roux, who will be hosting the next series of Masterchef: The Professionals later this year, ensures his chefs make use of everything: Leek tops are used for stocks, potato peelings are fried and given to staff for lunch, meat and fish bones are stripped of meat and then boiled for stock, and vinegar is used as a degreaser.
“At Le Gavroche we never even throw away the butter wrappers. We use them for anything we’d use foil or greaseproof paper for. They’re already buttered after all,” he says.
And chefs that cannot get their heads around this ethos are swiftly shown the door.
"If they can’t come round to my way of thinking I wish them luck and a prosperous career elsewhere, which I know they won’t have if they continue to waste food," he adds.
The behind the scenes workings of Roux Jr’s kitchen, revealed in his new book Michel Roux Jr, A Life in the Kitchen, will be of particular interest to chefs and restaurateurs operating today in Britain, particularly as Roux Jr took over Le Gavroche just as we entered the last recession.
“Taking over Le Gavroche in the early 1990s was hard – probably the toughest time in my life. Many people think restaurants like Le Gavroche are immune, but this is just not true, especially in a recession like the one in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, which lasted for a long time. We had to lay off staff and the rest of us had to work twice as hard. And mentally, it was tough. But when I look back, I would have done all the same things,” he writes.
The book, which also features 120 of the chef’s recipes, includes Roux Jr’s experiences and thoughts on being part of the Roux dynasty, something he describes as both ‘a help and a hindrance’, his views on other chefs and the relationship between his father Albert and his uncle Michel.
“There have been some rumours and stories that my father and uncle don’t get on very well and haven’t spoken to each other for years. That’s very far from the truth. They adore each other, but there is a very strong sibling rivalry, which is absolutely normal. They’re very different people. They’re brothers, not twins, but they do share the same passion for great food and wine. That brings them together as they strive for perfection.”
Michel Roux Jr. A Life in the Kitchen is published by Orion and is available to buy in all good bookshops for £25.