* This exclusive news story first appeared in The Sunday Times.
IN BLACK jeans and trainers and with her hair scraped back, the miniscule Emily Roux epitomises the new wave of female chefs. Like her father Michel Roux Jr she runs every day to stay fit and focused, has no truck with butter or cream, and is on a mission to encourage more young Scottish women to enter the industry.
Poised like a spring in the dining room at Crossbasket Castle near Glasgow, where she is collaborating with her father and grandfather Albert and where she presented her own Scottish-sourced taster menu for the first time, the 25-year-old’s view of her profession was clear-eyed and frank.
She said: “We’re hearing more and more about women chefs in London, but I think we need more women chefs in Scotland.
“I do recognise that striking a balance between bringing up a family and working anti-social hours is the reason there aren’t more high-profile women chefs here, but the feminisation of the industry is already underway and I have more role models than any previous generation. I’ve never been alone as a woman in the kitchen.”
She cited Rachel Humphrey, now Le Gavroche’s first female head chef; mother-of-one MasterChef judge Monica Galetti, formerly of Le Gavroche and set to open her first stand-alone restaurant; and Clare Smyth, formerly chef patron of the three Michelin star Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea, also about to open her own restaurant.
Last week Anne Sophie Pic, voted one of the world’s best female chefs, was appointed president judge of the Roux Scholarship in a bid to encourage more women chefs to enter the prestigious competition. Winners include Scots chefs Andrew Fairlie and Ian Scaramuzza, but to date there have been no women scholars.
Struggling to name any women chefs currently working north of the Border, she continued: “It’s not a matter of having different skills. A chef is a chef, man or woman. But in a brigade it’s always good to have a mix of both. All women together is not good, and all men is not good. Women are natural multi-taskers. Guys need to slow down and calm themselves. Women are good at saying to them, ‘shut up’, basically, and sometimes they listen. You sometimes have to scream a little louder to make yourself heard.”
She recently joined her father’s Mayfair restaurant Le Gavroche, where her fiancé Diego Ferrari, whom she met when both were working at Alain Ducasse’s triple Michelin starred restaurants in Monaco and Paris, is head chef. She and her father now host monthly pop-ups at Le Gavroche and she also works with Restaurant Associates, creating the menus for events at Wimbledon, Epsom and banks in London. ...continues after photo .../
But she will have an increasing presence in Scotland, not only overseeing the menus at ICMI’s Crossbasket Castle on the outskirts of Glasgow and Inverlochy Castle near Fort William, but also giving cookery demonstrations and hosting dinners throughout the Scottish luxury hotel group where her grandfather is culinary consultant. They include Cromlix, Greywalls, Inver Lodge, Rocpool Reserve and the Roxburghe. Always using locally sourced ingredients, it’s a role she is clearly warming to. “I adore Scottish produce and I’m really taken by the interest in food up here. People ask great questions and demonstrate real knowledge.
“However, I’m quite surprised they’re not as familiar with local produce as I thought they would be. That’s a shame and it’s something I’d like to change.”
She is set to marry in May and will escape to the Maldives to tie the knot. If she were to have a daughter of her own, would she encourage her to become a chef? She hesitates. “It’s a difficult life we lead,” she begins. “My fiancé and I see each other for 20 minutes at the end of each working day if we’re lucky. Christmas, birthdays, special celebrations, they don’t really exist for us. My mum did explain to me when I was young that if I became a chef I would have no social life to speak of, and it’s true. But I never hesitated. I’d say if you’re passionate about it, go ahead and do it. It’s worth it when you get positive feedback from people.
“And modern cheffing is a lot more fun that just standing behind a stove. Engaging with customers, doing demonstrations and events is all there for the taking. Even if you’re shy like me you do get used to it.”
Asked if she might open a restaurant in Scotland, she replied: “I would consider it, definitely. Why not?”