chef Albert Roux
The outstanding culinary combination that is Michel Roux Jr and his father Albert Roux OBE returned to Epsom Downs Racecourse for a second consecutive year to create ‘Chez Roux @ Blue Riband’ during the Investec Derby Festival on Friday, 5th and Saturday, 6th June 2015.
The highly acclaimed French-English two-star Michelin chefs who run the famous London restaurant Le Gavroche enjoyed bringing the very best of fine dining straight to the track for the two-day festival.
But few diners may have realised that as well as sharing his love of fine food with them, Albert Roux also shares their enjoyment of horseracing.
When he first came to England aged 18 he worked as a ‘scullery boy’ for Viscountess Nancy Astor at Clivedon “and there was a stud next to the house [Clivedon Stud],” he recalled. This sparked an interest in horses that was resumed later in his life.
Called back to France for National Service, Albert Roux next returned to England as a full-fledged chef to take up the position as Head Chef at the Fairlawne Estate in Kent, owned by Major Peter Cazalet, a former jockey, who later became a three-time champion jump trainer counting Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother amongst his owners.
Asked if he knew anything about training horses before arriving there, Albert Roux replied “I was in the Army and I had a mule!”
Roux was clearly fascinated by the racehorses however, and soon asked if he could join in. Cazalet taught Roux how to ride and took him to the races each week, fostering a “deep love of horses” in the man who was later to become one of the most famous chefs in the world.
“I used to ride out first lot for Peter Cazalet before working [in the kitchen] in the morning, but I could never ride out second lot as I had to start work,” said Albert Roux.
Amongst the racehorses he rode, the most successful was perhaps Scottish Flight II, who came fourth in the Grand National in 1961.
Possibly as a result of his association with Cazalet (who himself rode in the Grand National three times) Albert Roux has a particular fondness for National Hunt racing – especially Aintree, and the Cheltenham Festival where Roux once had a runner of his own (second in the Sun Alliance): “I go every year – it is the Mecca of jump racing.”
He has an occasional flutter but his philosophy is “to kiss the money goodbye and if anything comes back then that is good fortune!”
The Investec Derby Festival and the world-renowned Investec Derby is a highlight of Britain’s sporting and social calendar.
More than 125,000 people flock through the gates during the two days of the festival to enjoy a combination of spectacular horseracing, fabulous fashions and an unbeatable atmosphere.
When asked for sartorial tips for racegoers, Albert Roux commented that he loves women who dress well to the races, and loves the hats. He also likes “a lady to show a little leg with the skirt resting just above the knee” – said with a sparkle in his eye!
Albert Roux talked to Charlotte Greig at Roux at the Parliament Square restaurant during the Investec Epsom Derby tasting event. Photographs by Rachel Groom.