Albert Roux celebrates Irish food

Ireland is blessed ‘with a wonderful larder’

 Michelin chef Albert Roux: “I used to come here for 10 solid years in the 1980s with the children and the dogs . . . I absolutely loved the Ring of Kerry.” Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

Michelin chef Albert Roux: “I used to come here for 10 solid years in the 1980s with the children and the dogs . . . I absolutely loved the Ring of Kerry.” Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

 

Albert Roux is chef royalty. The restaurateur has trained household names such as Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White. With his brother Michel he ran Le Gavroche – the Queen Mother’s favourite restaurant and the first UK restaurant to get three Michelin stars.

Yesterday he came to Dublin for a celebration of Irish food, at the request of food service company Compass Group Ireland which provides catering in places such as the Aviva stadium.

In the eyes of this French man, though, do we have much food to celebrate?

“Oh yes,” says Roux (78). This is a country blessed by God with a wonderful larder. The sea, the grass, the rain – it’s got everything. You name it, it is here. I use lots of Irish butter.”

He picked the menu for last night’s celebration at the Aviva stadium.

It included Kilmore Quay diver scallop and fillet of beef from Robin Gogan in Ardcath Co Meath, accompanied by a Cashel Crozier blue, port and walnut butter sauce.

He is planning to open a series of restaurants on racecourses, starting with Cheltenham, and he is looking forward to getting some Irish custom.

Gold Cup day without the Irish is nothing. It would be like a vicarage tea party.”

Roux has trained many Irish chefs, “hard-working people, good humoured and reliable,” but his most famous protégés are probably Ramsay and White.

Ramsay is “a nice young man . . . very gifted . . . hard-working, very successful”. He says the colourful chef doesn’t swear like that in real life. “It’s just for the camera. In my kitchen I never allowed swearing, pushing people.”

However his highest praise is reserved for Marco Pierre White, despite the fact that they no longer speak.

“I do not see him, I do not talk to him. He is without any shadow of a doubt the most brilliant person I have had the pleasure to have in my kitchen, a very natural chef, full of talent, but he has got a huge problem on his shoulder and I’m afraid he will never get the reward of his knowledge.”

It must be very satisfying to see his protégés become household names?

“The biggest satisfaction I’ve ever had in my life is to train somebody who becomes better than the master. And I’m not afraid to say that.”

He says the recent explosion of food programmes is “slightly overdone in my view . . . there are some programmes which make me switch off the television when I see them. I won’t name them.”

Roux and his family were familiar faces in Kerry in the 1980s but he hasn’t been here recently. “I used to come here for 10 solid years in the 1980s with the children and the dogs . . . I absolutely loved the Ring of Kerry.”

During one of those trips he discovered artist Pauline Bewick after seeing one of her works in Arbutus Lodge in Cork.

“I have a big collection now, I think she’s fantastic,” he says. Roux says he would like to return to Ireland, taking a horse and carriage and travelling slowly around Kerry for a week or two.

“It would be a sentimental journey. I’d like that.”