My First Million

April 11, 2008 4:38 pm

My first million: Michel Roux Jr

Michel Roux Jr, 47, is chef de cuisine at Le Gavroche, the restaurant opened by his father, Albert, and uncle, Michel in 1967. His first apprenticeship was in Paris under maitre patissier, Hellegouarche, from 1976 to 1979.

Between 1969 and 1980, Roux was commis de cuisine at Le Gavroche and held the same position from 1980 to 1982 at Mionay, Lyon, training under Alain Chapel, the greatest influence on his work.

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My First Million

He has also written four bestselling books, which include Matching Food and Wine, and The Marathon Chef to help runners. He is taking part in the Flora London Marathon this Sunday to raise money for Visually Impaired Children Taking Action (VICTA).

Roux is married to Gisele, and they live in Clapham, south London, with their daughter Emily.

Did you think you would get to where you are?
I am not really surprised to be where I am. As a child, absolutely everything involved in the catering industry appealed to me – food and wine and restaurants. It was a natural progression to build on my father’s reputation.

When you realised that you had made your first million were you tempted to slow down?

No. What is £1m worth in terms of work? I might be worth that much or more, but I’m still the same person. I never take money for granted – the amount coming in was never a marker. That’s not why I go to work in the morning. I get satisfaction doing what I do.

What is the secret of your success?

The basics are hard work and dedication. This industry is intense and you have to give 100 per cent. It is a commitment of time and of oneself. It is vitally important in a restaurant for the owner to be there most of the time. I spend about 90 per cent of my time at Le Gavroche. It is also essential to keep regular clients. You have to bend over backwards to get a loyal customer.

Have you had time for personal financial planning?

I tend to leave that to someone else though I do like to know where everything is going. I use tax advisers and insurance brokers, but I read and understand every mortgage statement that comes in.

What was your most prudent investment?

I am flabbergasted that our three-bedroom flat in Clapham, a large Victorian conversion, has risen six times in value since we bought it in 1989. Another shrewd purchase was shares in Manchester United. I bought them when they went public in 1991, and held on to them, but not really as an investment. I just wanted to own a tiny part of the club I support. When Malcolm Glazer took over [Man Utd], I made a handsome profit.

Do you want to carry on till you drop?
If I take my father as an example, he is 73 and still works extensively. I don’t want to be as intense as my father when I get to his age, but I do feel I would never ease off completely.

What steps have you taken in terms of planning to pass on your wealth?

My 17-year-old daughter Emily is very interested in this industry and plans to go to catering school. So who knows? There may be a third generation on the way. I will not spend everything, but I do believe that one’s children should understand that they have to work for a living. Wealth is not a given.

Have you made any pension provision?
I have made ample provision myself but I really think that the government should do more to encourage people to put money aside, which you can only do by further tax incentives. I started investing in a pension in my mid-20s. I believe it is a social responsibility. I will probably draw on it at about age 60.

Do you allow yourself the odd indulgence?

Yes, I belong to the P1 Club, a very exclusive car club founded by Damon Hill that enables me to drive any top- of-the-range supercars that I wish to – Ferraris, Bentley GTs, or Ford GTs. It is based in London and when I feel the need to drive a supercar I call them and have one delivered to my doorstep, either at home or work. It is hassle-free, as you don’t pay any insurance, suffer any depreciation, or need a garage in London, which I don’t have.

I’ve been a member for the last five years. You pay a one-off joining fee and there is an annual membership, but that is limited to 250 people. The annual membership fees start at £13,000.

Picasso or Art Deco as an investment?
I love art. There is one particularly clever artist, David Bromley, who I met on a visit to Adelaide three years ago and I have several of his paintings. I came across him by chance. When I asked at the hotel, the owner invited me out for lunch to meet this chap. He is extremely well known in Asia and Australasia.

What is the most you have ever paid for a bottle of fine wine or champagne?

I have just bought a case of 1982 Latour for £15,000. The price can only go up, so I will keep it for two or three years and see how it goes. You can drink it now or it is good to drink in another 20 years.

Deep down, I think I will probably end up drinking it with some dear friends and family.

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