As the head judge on BBC2’s MasterChef: The Professionals, Michel Roux Jr pushed chefs to the limit with against-the-clock skills tests and high-pressure stints in the kitchens of some of the most exacting restaurants in the world. But 18 months after a somewhat acrimonious departure from the BBC, Roux tells the new issue of Radio Times he’s not a fan of the competitive cooking format.
Asked about shows like The Great British Bake Off and MasterChef, he says “beating people is not the best way to approach life. It’s wrong.” He’s quick to point out that his new Channel 4 series Kitchen Impossible is not a competition. The show will follow him overseeing a group of people with disabilities – “Asperger’s, autism, Down’s syndrome” – as they take part in a course designed to equip them with the basic skills for a job in the catering industry.
Roux is not keen either on the description of himself as “a celebrity chef”, telling us: “A celebrity chef is a chef who spends more time on television than in their kitchen. The television work that I have done is a by-product of my job, it has never ever taken over my life.”
If any show has threatened to take over his life, though, it might just be Kitchen Impossible. “It’s been emotional,” he admits, of his work with the young people he mentors. “You want to hug them and cajole but that’s doing them a disservice. You have to push them… It isn’t easy.”
Read the wide-ranging and frank interview with Michel Roux Jr in the new issue of Radio Times magazine, on sale from Tuesday