My Life In Travel: Michel Roux Jr, chef and TV presenter

'I love taking a canoe down the River Ardèche'

Sophie Lam
Sunday 23 October 2011 04:34

First holiday memory?

I've got a photo of it – my parents drove us up from the southernmost part of Kent to Scotland in an old Morris Minor Traveller. I must have been about eight; I don't remember that much about it other than the memories from the photos.

Best holiday?

A place called Bird Island in the Seychelles, where there are no phones, televisions, radios or computers. It is a real retreat – I go there and just chill.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

I have travelled fairly extensively in the UK but it has got to be Old Trafford. I like Manchester as a city but whenever I go up and see a match, for me it's a theatre of dreams. I love football and I love Manchester United!

What have you learnt from your travels?

To embrace different cultures and how wonderful and diverse the world is. You can see that with food – it really is the language of life and love. Unfortunately there are a lot people who don't get enough of it and other places where it's wasted. Wherever you do get it though, it gives you great pleasure.

Ideal travelling companion?

My wife Giselle. Wherever I travel she comes with me.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I'm a combination of all three. I do enjoy sitting down and reading a book and doing nothing, but I equally enjoy exploring and walking the streets, visiting museums and art galleries. I also love running and sport and doing things like deep-sea fishing.

Greatest travel luxury?

Time, because I have very little of it.

Holiday reading?

I like autobiographies and anything to do with food and wine. At the moment I'm reading Benjamin Wallace's book The Billionaire's Vinegar, which is about the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold. It was a 1787 Chateau Lafite that was supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson. It's quite controversial because it implicates a lot of masters of wine and experts.

Where has seduced you?

A small village in Provence called Eze, which is near Grasse. It's just stunning, perched up on a hill and there are two Michelin- starred restaurants. I've stayed several times with my wife and it's the most beautiful, romantic place you can imagine.

Better to travel or arrive?

Flying and travel can be nice, but there's nothing better than getting there.

Worst travel experience?

A train back to London from Manchester that took nine hours. The train broke down and once we'd boarded a second train someone had gone on to the track so we had to stop again. Then about an hour outside London the train stopped again at a small station because the driver had finished his shift. All the food and drink had run out in the buffets and the train was full of rowdy football fans. It was not a good experience.

Worst holiday?

All my holidays have been good – even if the location or the food isn't great, it's still time off with my wife.

Worst hotel?

I had a pretty bad experience in Mauritius. I opened a restaurant there a few years ago in a brand new hotel that wasn't finished on time. The hotel was badly built and I had to close the restaurant very quickly because the place wasn't up to scratch. It left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Best hotel?

The Plaza Athénée in Paris is quite simply the best when it comes to service, quality of food and decor. It's stunning.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

I have a house in the Ardèche region of France and I love to walk along the River Ardèche or take a canoe down it. You can do a 36km trip which takes in a few rapids and is great fun; I normally do it once or twice a year.

Best meal abroad?

At a family-run restaurant in San Sebastiá*called Arzak. It's a very special place where they use a lot of local produce and cook with modern technology. But it's not silly, it's still recognisable on a plate and that's what I like about it. It's authentic, modern and there's a real soul to the place.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

I go for a run; it's a great way to explore.

Dream trip?

To Copenhagen to eat at Noma Restaurant [recently voted the World's Best Restaurant in the San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants]. I was supposed to go two weeks ago for our wedding anniversary but the dreaded volcanic ash put a stop to that.

Favourite city?

London. It's a great place with so much going for it.

Where next?

For my birthday we're going to Mykonos. I'm just hoping for the best with all the instability in Greece at the moment!

Michel Roux is Chef de Cuisine of Le Gavroche and Chef Patron of Roux Parliament Square, both in London ( ; ).

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