The following interview appeared in the March/April edition of Food Management Today magazine.

Editor of Food Management Today Joanna Thomson caught up with Michelin-star chef and TV personality Michel Roux Jr to discuss culinary innovation and food shopping staples.

“Well, if I’m brutally honest, I don’t do the supermarket shopping.” It’s hardly a shock that world-renowned chef Michel Roux isn’t down his local Waitrose every Saturday doing the big shop – that, for obvious reasons, he says, is Mrs Roux’s job.

Though Mr Roux isn’t the one comparing ‘price per kg’ or BOGOF deals, he does have a least a bit of control over what goes on the shopping list.

A “real proper good quality” butter, he says, is the one ingredient that he absolutely cannot live without: “It’s wonderful and flavourful, and it adds texture as well. What’s brilliant about it is that in every region for sure in France, and most probably in the UK, there are different flavours of butter depending on what the cows in that area have been eating. It’s a very natural product.”

Another of his retail favourites is a tin of sardines. He said: “There’s a particular French brand, which I favour. I’ve tried to cook sardines like you would get in a tin, and they’re never quite the same.

“It’s probably the tinning process that I can’t quite emulate. To crack that, to get the flavour of tin sardines, would be brilliant.”

“I’ve been collecting cookery books, and some of them are way over 100 years old. Flicking through them can be very inspiring indeed.”

Now, it’s not every day that you get to speak to a Michelin-star chef about his opinions on food retail – and so, I knew I had to ask the big question: does he think that food made for retail can compete with the products of a restaurant kitchen?

“Yeah, I think they can, actually,” he says confidently. “Nowadays, mass production of food can be of a very high level… To mechanise food production, then you may need to add certain gums and chemicals and such like; but I don’t think there’s that much of a downscaling in quality when you go up in quantity.”

The secret to successful food, regardless of industry, he says, is all about exciting people – but achieving that is not as simple as it sounds. He said: “It’s always difficult to find the next trend and the next thing that’s going to excite people, isn’t it? You’re always constantly trying to reinvent or to capture those flavours and that magic you’ve created in the past.

“But I think for me, I find inspiration by traveling, trying new flavours and also trying new cooking techniques as well. I also tend to find a lot of inspiration in old cookery books. I’ve been collecting cookery books, and some of them are way over 100 years old. Flicking through them can be very inspiring indeed.”

As part of his search for new flavours, on Roux’s culinary hot list at the moment are two African restaurants in London, Chishuru and Akoko, who have recently been awarded Michelin stars: “I’m desperate to go and eat there and see what it’s all about.

“But it’s just wonderful, isn’t it? To be able to taste all these different foods on your backdoor. I do believe that through food, you can get an insight into the culture of the people who create it.

“I love traveling and now that all restrictions are lifted, I can’t wait to travel a bit more, maybe go to South America.”

It seems that Roux may have more time for culinary adventures abroad this year as in January, he closed his two Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Gavroche, announcing that he would like to spend more time with his family and pursue other business ventures.

The world-renowned chef will host this year’s FMT Food Industry Awards in June. | Photo: Issy Crocker.

Reflecting on this pivotal chapter’s conclusion, one cannot help but wonder: was there someone he’d have loved to have invited into the kitchen? Renowned for his steadfast allegiance to Manchester United, it comes as no surprise that Roux’s ‘one that got away’ is club champion and 90s football superstar Eric Cantona.

He said: “I’ve only met him once, but I’m a big Man United fan and he was an exceptional player and an inspiration to the class of ‘92 and the many other stars of Manchester United. And he loves his food, and he loves his wine. So, I’d love to cook for him. I’d love to cook for him and then sit down and eat with him.

“You could have a proper good chat and talk about philosophy and football at the same time.” When I reply that I didn’t realise footballers were that deep, he assures me: “Eric Cantona is very deep all right.”

So, what’s next for Roux, and will we be seeing him back on our screens any time soon? As is the modern tradition, it’s become customary for TV personalities with a bit of leisure to pop up on reality television. When asked whether he’d be interested in a call from the execs at Strictly or I’m a Celeb, Michel replied: “Never say never!”

Whilst it remains to be seen whether Roux will be heading to the Tower Ballroom or Australian Outback in the near future, what we can be sure of is that his next big gig is hosting the FMT Food Industry Awards in June. When celebrating his own successes, surrounded by friends and family, Roux is known to pop open a vintage champagne – a 2004 Taittinger “Comtes de Champagne” to be exact. With that in mind, let’s raise a glass to all of the finalists in this year’s awards programme – and toast to a very successful ceremony later this year.

The FMT Food Industry Awards 2024 returns on Thursday 27th June as part of a 5-star business lunch and awards ceremony held at the Royal Garden Hotel, London. For more information about the event, or to purchase tickets, click here.