What's in your basket?

Albert Roux, chef, 73
A bottle of champagne a day, lashings of cream and cheese. But where are the greens, asks Dr John Briffa
Sat 15 Nov 2008 19.01 EST

When I first arrived in England, in 1953, it was a gastronomic desert. If I wanted olive oil for a salad, I had to go to the chemist and buy 12 tiny bottles. It was used for syringing people's ears. The chemist thought I had a sick elephant at home. Nowadays, the English are daring and exciting with food. You can buy everything here and it's the same quality as France, sometimes better. The English have better bass, turbot, wild salmon and lobster, and Scottish beef is the world's best.

I start my day with two cups of strong coffee unless I'm going to Billingsgate Market. Then I'll be up at four to get my fish, see the remaining friends I have alive and working there and have a full English breakfast: fried potatoes, mushrooms, bangers, bacon, eggs. Lunch is usually light and involves business. I'll start with a simple crab salad and then a small roast; chicken or beef with all the extras and then good French cheese. I have a large dinner - shellfish, such as scallops, and then rack of lamb, and something like English cherries to finish.

I also adore moules et frites. Who doesn't like mussels? They're cheap, healthy and better than lobster. But you must have them with thick mayonnaise. It's very bad for you but so very good. My greatest extravagances are champagne, butter, cream - and women. I am a womaniser and I eat mountains of butter. I also put clotted cream on my strawberries and scones. I do drink, but not like the English. To enjoy life to the full it's wise to avoid excess. But it doesn't stop me from demolishing a bottle of champagne a day. And a bottle of good wine, with a meal.

I grew up during the war when food was scarce. My father was fighting Germans in the woods while my mother was making meals from very few, very simple ingredients. Steaming hot plates of calves' hearts with rice and lots of boiled beef, using the cheap bit, the brisket. Everything was cooked very slowly. It was incredibly filling and kept us going. I learnt a lot from my mother. She used innards, saying they made a noble dish. A favourite of mine was her chicken-feet stew. Now we throw away giblets. But Michel [his son, the chef Michel Roux Jr] always serves a traditional dish made of innards, the skirt or brisket, for lunch at Le Gavroche.

I have houses in Hyde Park and Lingfield, where I am most weekends. Half of the year I'm in the States. A lot of Americans are obese but a small proportion eat well. The English, though, are quick learners, work hard and understand food. It's amazing how much they've learnt about food since I arrived. Why else would I live here?


I always like to see fish or seafood in someone's basket, and mussels provide Albert with useful amounts of omega-3 fats that are believed to be good for the brain.

Rack of lamb

Another good source of monounsaturated fat. But Albert's diet is a bit heavy in animal-derived fare and light on vegetable matter. More fruit and veg would not go amiss.


Butter's high saturated-fat content usually gets it blacklisted, but I don't think there's much evidence that animal fat is bad for you. Plus, a fair proportion of butter is relatively healthy monounsaturated fat (as in olive oil).


Like butter, cream is often vilified on account of its saturated fat and cholesterol content, but this view isn't supported by scientific evidence.

Strong coffee

Traditionally given a bad press, recent evidence seems to show that, in moderation, coffee may actually be good for you. It's certainly not going to kill you.

French cheese

Replacing his cheese with fruit on some days would help Albert balance his diet. Or he could add some apple or pear to this course.


The 'benefits' of alcohol have recently been overstated, and Albert's intake could be regarded as excessive. I'd advise drinking a glass of water with every one of wine.