Alain Roux says lack of female chefs in Roux Scholarship is “disappointing”

By Hannah Thompson

- Last updated on GMT

(Photo: The Roux family chefs: L-R: Michel Jr, Albert, Michel, Alain / The Roux Scholarship)
(Photo: The Roux family chefs: L-R: Michel Jr, Albert, Michel, Alain / The Roux Scholarship)

Related tags Roux scholarship Alain roux Michel roux

Chef Alain Roux, chef-patron at the three-Michelin-starred The Waterside Inn, has said the lack of female chefs applying to his family’s prestigious Roux Scholarship contest is “very disappointing”.

The competition is historically male-dominated, with previous winners including Andrew Fairlie (1984), André Garrett (2002) and Simon Hulstone (2003).

Only a few women – if any – reach the finals each year.

Speaking on Twitter, Alain Roux wrote​: “Very few chefs seem to apply for the Roux Scholarship. Until they do, it will be an all-male domain.  Very disappointed.”

He sent the candid message in reply to a question from user Susi Hester, who asked: “Honestly curious, why do you think only men are there?”

Her question came after a previous tweet from Roux, which celebrated the e-book of the Scholarship finalists’ 2016 trip to California, alongside a photo of all finalists and attendees – all of whom were men.

Founded in 1984, the notoriously tough French skills competition is overseen by the Roux family. Chefs Alain and Michel Roux Jr took over from their fathers Michel and Albert Roux as joint chairman in 2016.

Its prizes include a three-month stage in any three-Michelin-starred restaurant in the world.

There has been just one female winner of the contest in its history, when Mercy Fenton – now owner of the Wicked Desserts company – picked up the award in 1994.

On the scholarship's official website, she described the win as having “opened a great many doors” and as being “pivotal” to her future career and culinary travels.   

All other winners have been men, including Harry Guy in 2016, Ian Scaramuzza in 2015, and Tom Barnes in 2014. The first ever winner, in 1984, was Andrew Fairlie, now chef patron of the two-star Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles in Scotland.

Sabrina Gidda, who has competed in two Roux scholarships and is current head chef at Bernardi’s in Marylebone, has previously added her voice to the issue, saying in 2016 that it was “a bit worrying”​ that she was the only woman out of 120 chefs in last year’s competition. 

 Sabrina Gidda, head chef at Bernardi’s in the West End, has done two Roux scholarships and said it was “a bit worrying” that she was the only woman out of 120 chefs in last year’s competition.

The winner of this year’s scholarship is due to be announced at a champagne reception and awards ceremony at The Langham London hotel on 10 April, with the Roux family and finalists in attendance.

Anne-Sophie Pic, three Michelin-starred French chef and the 2011 World's Best Female Chef in The World's 50 Best Restaurants list, has been named as honorary president of the judges​ ​this year.

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