The gastronomy of France is so important, so intrinsic a part of its national character and the lives of its people that it has been recognised by UNESCO on their “world intangible heritage” list. UNESCO experts singled out French gastronomy as a “social custom aimed at celebrating the most important moments in the lives of individuals and groups”.
If, like me, you’ve been glued to the TV when Master Chef the Professionals is on then you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say that Michel Roux Jr is a true representative of French cuisine. To watch him prepare a classic dish is to watch a master at work and a champion of traditional French recipes. How many of us have thought to ourselves – I wish I could make that, or, I wonder what that tastes like?
Well, it seems I’m not alone because Michel Roux Jr has just bought out his first book in three years, saying “I’m often asked to explain what makes a recipe a classic. The simple answer is that it is a dish that has stood the test of time. A classic can be anything from a pan of sautéed potatoes, redolent with garlic and herbs, to the most extravagant fish or meat dishes or beautiful pastries”.
I’m not a great cook though I enjoy learning to make French dishes – mostly from my French neighbours and friends or from books. Learning to cook a traditional dish with Michel Roux Jr, however I much I’d love it, is clearly not in scope for me – or is it?!
Michel says “‘I was brought up on traditional French cooking and the recipes in this book are those that I’ve loved and prepared for years, at work and at home. These are classic dishes and – with a few adjustments here and there – they are as popular today as they have always been”.
There are 200 recipes in the book and every one of them reflects both a love of good food and the preparation of a delicious dish. These are not the sort of dish you can prepare in 10 minutes, they require thinking about – many of them need to be thought about in advance to make sure ingredients are to hand. The dishes are seasonal, range from rustic to haute cuisine and are photographed beautifully.
The book is peppered with Michel Roux Jr’s favourite quotes about French cuisine and every recipe has a personal introduction, a memory of the dish, a tip, something about its heritage. These are classic recipes, the sort that have been passed from generation to generation – traditional family cooking whether it’s for an authentic croque monsieur (toasted French cheese and ham sandwich) or a Marquise au chocolat with a twist that makes it achievable for those of us attempting to cook this most delicious chocolate and biscuit classic at home. Totally inspirational…
About Michel Roux
After apprenticeships with Maître Patissier Hellegouarche in Paris and Alain Chapel in Mionnay, followed by basic training with the French army, Michel Roux Jr worked for two years at the Elysée Palace under French Presidents D’Estaing and Mitterrand. Posts with Pierre Koffman at La Tante Claire and at the Mandarin in Hong Kong led to firstly the Waterside Inn, England with uncle Michel Sr and then to Le Gavroche, London, the restaurant founded by his father and uncle in 1967. In 1993 Michel Roux Jr became Chef de Cuisine at le Gavroche which has two Michelin stars and is regularly listed as one of the ‘Best Restaurants in the World’. He is a keen sportsman and has run nineteen marathons. Michel Roux Jr has become one of the UK’s favourite presenters after appearing on the BBC’s Masterchef: The Professionals,his own programme, Service, all three series of Great British Food Revival and several other TV shows.
The French Kitchen, by Michel Roux Jr, Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Michel Roux’s Croque Monsieur recipe