Michel Roux at The London Chef

Left: Michel Roux making croquembouche. Middle: Desserts Right: Dan Hays and Michel Roux. Photos by Micayla Hays

If you were lucky enough to have seen culinary icon, Michel Roux, at The London Chef on Sunday, you would have witnessed The Godfather of Pastry in action.

Michel Who? If you’re not in the culinary industry (or from Europe) you might not know that this Michelin-starred French chef is a legend not only in pastry circles, but he is also considered one of the most influential chefs in the world!

The famous chef was in town promoting his latest cookbook, Desserts, thanks to the collaboration of Barbara-Jo McIntosh (Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks, Vancouver), David Feys (Feys & Hobbs, Victoria), and Dan and Micayla Hays, who hosted the festive event with a dessert and champagne book signing at The London Chef.

Chef Roux rose to fame, along with his brother Albert, with their restaurant La Gavroche, (the first restaurant in Britain to achieve three Michelin stars), and later, The Waterside Inn, which has maintained three Michelin stars for over 25 consecutive years.

At age 70, chef Roux nonchalantly assembled an impressive croquembouche (a multi-level, cone-shaped dessert, made of numerous cream-filled profiteroles bound with caramel), while charming the audience with tales of his celebrated career. With endearing French accent, Roux shared a story of a pastry apprenticeship that began at 14 and involved running through the streets of Paris delivering towering croqembouches to customers in five-story apartment buildings without benefit of elevators or appreciative tips.

Despite his impressive career, Roux is unpretentious, quick to laugh and exceedingly gracious. He insisted, for example, on introducing and publicly acknowledging behind-the-scenes pastry chef, Brigitte Balogh, for her work preparing the perfect choux pastry, crème pâtissière and hot caramel for the delectable croquembouche.

The appreciative audience (many of whom are local chefs) enjoyed listening to Roux’s kitchen philosophy, which is grounded in discipline, hard work and the mastery of both cuisine and pastry skills ~ all of which, he pointed out, has nothing to do with money or fame. He criticized celebrity chefs for taking shortcuts with ghost-written cookbooks and — mon dieu! — autobiographies published at 35 years of age. Roux has no patience for those who lose their cool at work, saying anger has no place in the kitchen (never mind that hot-head celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsey, apprenticed under Roux at La Gavroche).

Guests enjoyed a tantalizing sampling of treats featured in his book Desserts, including delectable citron tarts, banana souffle crêpes drizzled with chocolate, warm chocolate fondants (worth every calorie!) and, of course, the glorious croquembouche.

For fans of Roux you could say, Christmas came early this year.

Signed copies of Desserts are available at The London Chef and Feys+Hobbs Catered Arts boutique store.

– By Denise Marchessault 


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