Michel Roux Jr: Second helpings please!
Culinary champ Michel Roux is the thinking woman's Gordon Ramsay, says Bryony Gordon
Published 09/11/2012 | 06:00
Michel Roux Jr tells me he likes women of flesh and pigs' testicles, and though the two are not necessarily connected, he is clearly a sensual man, stroking his trousers and caressing the spectacles at his side as if they were a beautiful lady.
He is the thinking woman's Gordon Ramsay, all Gallic charm (despite the fact he was born in the UK), with the ability to make a dodine of duck with pistachios sound sexy. When I mention any of this to him, the man who became famous on the UK version of the hit TV show MasterChef: The Professionals, he pretends not to know what I am talking about because, on top of all this, he's a real tease.
"I'll let you into a secret," he says, moving a little closer on the sofa. "A lot of men fancy me, too. I got this really raucous email from a gay couple who live in Amsterdam, actually, which was quite pleasing I suppose. Very flattering."
We meet in a converted brewery. It's a far cry from Le Gavroche, the two-Michelin star restaurant in London that he took over from his father, Albert, back in 1990 -- but this is where MasterChef: The Professionals, which returned on Monday, is filmed, so I suppose it will have to do.
Roux Jr is like a prime cut from a beautiful cow, with his deep brown eyes and long lashes. He is a marathon runner and this makes him lean and sinewy.
The 52-year-old has been married for 23 years to Giselle, a Frenchwoman he met through the restaurant business, and they have a daughter, Emily, who was an IVF baby and is now 21, training at Alain Ducasse's restaurant in Monaco.
As a member of the Roux dynasty -- as well as grandfather Albert, there is great uncle, Michel Sr -- the culinary gene was probably inescapable, and Roux Jr says that Emily "has always wanted to be a chef, ever since she was gurgling. Over the years, we have taken her to eat in every restaurant we have been to. She's probably had more three-star Michelin meals than any other 21-year-old in the world."
He would like to pass Le Gavroche on to her one day, "but that would have to be her decision, not mine. There were many times when I was her age that I thought I wanted to do my own thing; that I would never do anything with Le Gavroche, and my daughter's the same".
In the end, he had to earn Le Gavroche, to the extent that he actually had to pay for it and he thinks that is the way it should be -- proving yourself through "blood, sweat, tears and pounds".
His father has admitted to cheating on his mother, and they are remarried now, both to younger partners, but, sadly for his legions of female followers, there is no danger of Michel following suit. "We have been together for almost 30 years, married for 23." What's the secret? He must work such long hours . . . "That's probably it," he twinkles.
He says his wife is "very, very understanding" but is quick to point out that this is in respect of his workload. So he doesn't have a typically French marriage? "I know what you mean," he smiles.
"I once read an article about it and I thought it was very humorous. But no. I have a very happy marriage, a very stable marriage."
We move on to the subject of another culinary strumpet, namely Nigella, and her recent assertion that French cooking was all foamy sauces and egotistical chefs, the latter point being proven by Jean-Christophe Novelli, who retorted that she "looked well over 60 for more than two thirds of her life from behind". Miaow!
Roux Jr will have none of that, however. "I love Nigella!" he beams. But she was rude about French cooking . . . "No she wasn't," he snaps. "I would never utter a bad word about her." Does he fancy her, I wonder? "You know I'm very happily married, but I do like a voluptuous woman."
MasterChef: The Professionals is on BBC Two on Monday at 8.30pm