Whilst I've been away, T managed to get addicted to Masterchef Professional. I too have now succumbed. One of the reasons is that I find Michel Roux Jr. mesmerising*. He looks like an officer in the French Foreign Legion: gaunt, tanned, stubbled, a slight accent and with dark eyes that are uncompromising but hint at generosity - but only if you cut it. What reinforces the impression is that contestants only get the right to cook for him once his NCO chefs have weeded out the unworthy. He also looks intense to the point of being a bit obsessively nuts, like all great chefs.
His comments are straight down the line and obviously drenched in vast experience. To be taught by him really would be a privilege. This helps explain why the Roux clan (his father Albert and uncle Michel Sr. complete the trio) appear as such éminences grises in the autobiographies of our star chefs.
The Roux have something of a mythical status in these memoirs. Almost all of these prima donnas, egomaniacs, hell-raisers, slave-drivers, and geniuses seem to have passed through their kitchens at some point. And what's more, despite the notorious bitchiness of the business, whilst it wouldn't be correct to say they don't have a bad word to say about them, they're obviously universally respected.
T and I have experienced Albert's hospitality - we were married, had lunch and stayed overnight at the Waterside Inn at Bray. I can't speak highly enough of the place. Whilst costing a few bob, I can say with conviction it was superb value for money. The lunch was simply the best I've ever had and you can't ask for more on a day like that. They were also incredibly tolerant of our little boy, nine months old and full of beans as he was. If you want an experience on a budget the three course set lunch used to cost about £24. As this is three-star Michelin cooking il vaut le detour - particularly on a sunny day when the riverside setting is a delight in itself.
* Having seen this post T has confessed that one of the attractions of Masterchef Professional is the 'pointy, cutie French looks' of M. Roux. Readers of this blog may know that this sort of thing has already made her a loyal fan of the French rugby team. "Ah, the little cuties have got an H!" Allez les Bleus indeed.