The Reserve heads to La Maison 1888 in Danang, Vietnam to have dinner with chef extraordinaire Michel Roux

Michel Roux is one of the world’s most accomplished chefs. His Waterside Inn in the UK has retained three Michelin stars for an improbable-sounding 28 consecutive years and he has trained some of the best-known names in gastronomy, including Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White and Sat Baines. Now, he is bringing a taste of his award-winning cuisine to Asia with the opening of La Maison 1888 at the Intercontinental Danang, Vietnam. Over a private cookery lesson he told The Reserve more about his new venture.

Why did you choose Danang as the destination for your first restaurant in Asia?
Of course the French influence was a big part of it. The French were in Vietnam for a long time – so there is a link, an understanding. But there was something else driving me too. I like to be a pioneer. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh already have lots of restaurants, they are major cities. Here, everything is new, it’s bubbling. I like to be at the beginning of something. It was the same when I opened The Waterside Inn in 1967. We were the first chefs to bring gastronomy to Britain.

Do you have plans to open elsewhere in Asia?
I never say no. You learn that when you say no you might say yes later on! But I am doubtful, let’s put it that way. Quality is better than quantity. If I were to do something, it would most probably be jointly with my son. Because he is 46 and it would make more sense.

How do you have the drive to continue when you have already proved yourself in so many ways?
Mainly because I like to help and inspire young people. I started the Roux Scholarship in 1984 – my scholars have the choice of training at a three-star Michelin restaurant of their choice anywhere in the world, all paid for. We do a crash course on the language as well and I go and visit them while they are there. I get so much out of it. Some of the people I nurtured are now running the top restaurants in the world. Gordon Ramsay, Marcus Wareing, Pierre Koffman, Sat Baines, there are lots more. Marco Pierre White too – but he is not my favourite. He is very gifted but he has a terrible attitude.

What is the secret to being a good cook?
You have to love it. If you don’t love food, you’re in the wrong business. So many young cooks now are in it for the wrong reasons. They want to become TV stars or writers. TV has done some damage. It attracts a lot of young people who would not be in the business otherwise. Their hearts are not in it. People like Jamie Oliver, who are both good cooks and good on TV are extremely rare.

What are your thoughts on Chinese food?
My style of eating suits Cantonese. But I like Sichuan, too. I find it very exciting. What I also like in Hong Kong is semi fast food which doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. Café de Coral for example. It’s not the best of course, but where else can you eat such good fast food?!

What is your ultimate decadent dinner?
I’d start with lobster – steamed. Steamed because I don’t like it to be overcooked. I’d have it with seaweed, melted butter, sea salt and pepper. I’d follow this with a leg of spring lamb. I would have the whole leg – not because I need it all, but because I want to find the best bits in the leg! I will have it with asparagus, if it’s in season. Most probably I would have a bottle of Cheval Blanc with this – a 1982 vintage – one of my favourite Bordeaux today. For dessert – a white peach with a few little wild strawberries to give it a kick. The smell of them is so delicate.

And you favourite travel spots?
I love places and islands that are cut off from the world. I prefer to be in what I call ‘normal places’ where people don’t know me. I love the Mediterrnean, too. The last few years I’ve been chartering a small boat with two or three other couples. We go to Corsica, Italy and the South of France.

How do you juggle being a chef with being a businessman?
The most important thing in life is to give confidence to people. Not take it away.  Very few people in life have to be held back. I also have to show my team that I am capable. I would never ask anyone to do something that I can’t do or that I couldn’t do as well myself. That goes for anything from setting the table to butchering meat. The same applies to finance. I can talk knowledgably about budgets, costings, and get better rates than anyone else with my banker. How? I don’t give him much time. My time is precious – more than his as far as I’m concerned. My grocers, fishmongers and suppliers are more important than he is.

Is there anything you feel you haven’t achieved yet?
I nearly left cooking for singing. I was a baratone. I did some competitions when I was young. Do I regret not pursuing it? Not really. I still love a good voice though. I think I chose the right career – I travel a lot, I meet a lot of people and I love what I do.

How do you relax?
I like entertaining. And I like wine! If I hadn’t been a chef, I would have been in the wine business. I have my own vineyard and a private cellar with 400 bottles of the finest wine in the world. I like playig golf, too. I started playing 15 years ago but I don’t have enough time so I am still at the same level. At least I’m consistent! I relax at my house in St Tropez, it’s on six hectares of land so nobody knows I am there – and that is how I like it! I also relax in Switzerland where I live now, not far from Verbier. And I take time out in New York – I have an apartment there on Fifth Avenue. If you ask me, New York is the best culinary city in the world.

Are you involved in philanthropy?
Yes. I am involved in ARC – a charity helping young chefs with drug and alcohol problems. And I am also a patron of the Spinal Chord Injury charity – I’ve got many friends who have become paralyzed so it’s very important to me.



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