The French chef will join the judging team for the 2016 contest, which will also feature Alain Roux and Michel Roux Jr as joint chairmen for the first time this year. .
Operator of restaurants all over the world, including his own eponymous site in Paris’ 8th arrondissement, in the UK Gagnaire is also head chef of Sketch in London. Both sites have ranked highly as part of the S Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants list created by Restaurant magazine in recent years.
The final of this year’s Roux Scholarship is set to take place at London’s Westminster Kingsway College, with each finalist given a recipe for a main dish, either classic or modern, just half an hour before the beginning of the three-hour test. The ultimate winner – the 2016 Roux Scholar ‒ will be announced at the award ceremony at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park Hotel. This year will also be the first awards ceremony to be live-streamed on the Roux Scholarship website.
There are six finalists to the contest this year, including chefs from Kensington Palace, Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume, and the Royal Automobile Club.
Gagnaire said: “It is a great honour to be part of this event. I have huge respect for the Roux brothers who were the pioneers of French cuisine in Great Britain. This is a unique event promoting our culinary culture and allowing the next generation of chefs to come out of the shadows for good. I hope I can live up to expectation.”
Michel Roux (pictured) said Gagnaire was a ‘unique talent’ with an unrivalled capacity for ‘brilliant innovation’.
“No wonder he has been chosen by two of our scholars as their stage destination of choice, an incredible tribute,” he said.
Frederick Forster, the 2000 Scholar, now head chef at D&D London’s Le Pont de la Tour restaurant in London, who worked with Gagnaire in Paris, added: “Mr Gagnaire is a chef I followed because I admired his use of seasonal products to create stunning, imaginative dishes…prior to [working] with Gagnaire I would say that my style was overworked and complicated; when I came back all that changed and to this day the philosophy and simplicity still remains.”
Other previous winners include Adam Smith (2012), Mark Birchall (2011), Simon Hulstone (2003), and Sat Bains (1999).
The finalists this year are:
Martin Carabott, The Royal Automobile Club, Pall Mall, London
Ben Champkin, L'Enclume, Cartmel, Cumbria
Scott Dineen, Goldman Sachs, (BaxterStorey), London
Harry Guy, Eden Hotel Collection, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire
Paul Matthews, Fieldfisher, (Vacherin), London
Tim Peirson, Kensington Place, Kensington, London