A life in the kitchen by Michel Roux Jr

We’ve teamed up with Waterstone’s to select our favourite new cookbook of the month. Here, delicious. magazine’s deputy editor, Helen Renshaw, reviews Michel Roux Jr’s latest tome.

A life in the kitchen by Michel Roux Jr

I was almost born in the kitchen, begins this memoir-with-recipes, a book so evocative of French cooking that opening the covers almost seems to release a whiff of shallots simmering in red wine. Mme Roux was working in the kitchen when she went into labour and her son nearly arrived among the bains-marie – Michel Jr has hardly left the kitchen since.

But for one born into the legendary Roux dynasty, that’s hardly surprising. After a childhood in the English countryside, where his father Albert and uncle Michel were private chefs in the kind of houses where the Queen Mother came to tea, Michel Jr trained in some of France’s grandest culinary establishments. Returning to London, he took over the two-Michelin-star Le Gavroche from his father, almost 20 years ago.

There are over 100 of Michel Jr’s treasured recipes sprinkled through the memories like bacon through a salade Lyonnaise, but you won’t need cordon bleu training to enjoy them. Roux is keen to demystify French cuisine and many of the recipes are simple, featuring just four or five ingredients.

Reflecting his progress as a chef, they range from pears in red wine (below), to the Michelin-starred sophistication of chicken, honey and rosemary baked in a salt crust. There are seasonal dishes such as fresh cherry clafoutis and broad bean and chickpea salad, and the basics of expert cooking are here, too – from perfect stocks and sauces to pastry and bread.

It’s beautifully photographed by Cristian Barnett, a diehard veggie who was almost converted by Michel Jr’s cooking during shooting. “I really enjoyed putting pen to paper,” says Michel Jr. “I love England and I love France. The food scene here was diabolical when I was a boy eating a packed lunch of crusty bread, Camembert and garlic sausage while my schoolmates tucked into sliced white with Marmite, but it’s improved a whole lot since then.”

Thanks to this book, it may be about to improve even more.

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