The chef and TV presenter, Michel Roux Jr, shares his secrets for impressing guests with a dazzling dinner party menu.
An iconic surname, distinguished French cooking and a fistful of television credentials - if you’re going to trust anyone to talk you through a dinner party, Michel Roux Jr is a safe bet. As he embarks on a search for a new protégé in The Roux Scholarship, Michel shares his top tips for serving up a professional-standard entertaining menu.
Do you have any fast fix presentation tricks to impress?
There are some lovely herbs and micro cress available now in shops- a few of these always do the trick. Also, put your sauces like mayonnaise in squeezy bottles then you can create little squeezy dots that always look very professional.
What’s your last minute, failsafe dish you regularly serve your guests at home?
Well I don’t do any cooking at home, so I’m probably the worst person to ask! But saying that, I always have a bottle of Champagne in my fridge at home. Champagne is always appreciated by everybody, and it’s a celebration to open a bottle. I always have things such as smoked salmon or Serrano ham, or something really tasty, high-end, but that keeps in the fridge. So my failsafe is very simple, quite luxurious - but it’s me!
Would you recommend any particular pieces of kit to help you create restaurant-style food in your own kitchen?
KitchenAid are extremely good and wearable, and all of their stuff I reckon is good value. They’re not the cheapest on the market but if you look at the longevity and quality of something like the KitchenAid hand blender - it’s absolutely amazing.
What’s the number one thing to avoid when catering at home?
Trying to over-impress. I always say, 'keep it simple'. It’s that old chestnut. Keeping it simple but making it look fancy. I always find something simple is far more pleasing anyway. A little tip too - when putting food on the plate, always leave a lot of the white of the plate. Choose a white plate as food looks better on white, and you can also choose to decorate it better than a heavily-decorated or patterned plate, which can mean the food gets lost.
Are there any particular dishes you’d try to avoid? Like soufflé for instance.
I’d never attempt a soufflé unless I’d tried the recipe before. With a soufflé you need to be supremely confident that the recipe works and extremely confident with your oven. Soufflés are not for first-timers!
Have you ever had a kitchen disaster when cooking for friends?
Well would I own up to it? That’s the thing! I did once burn a lamb stew and it set the smoke alarm off. We’d had a new hob installed and I didn’t realise that the setting I put it on was full as opposed to low. I went for a celebratory glass of Champagne with my guests and about ten minutes later the smoke alarms went off. Thankfully I had some cheese and salad, so we had that instead.
Do you have any ideas for impressive yet simple starters? So the chef can concentrate on the main course in the kitchen.
I always say if you are having a dinner party or having friends over, don’t try to impress on the starter, main and dessert- just try and impress on one of those. Keep maybe the starter nice and simple, and likewise the dessert - something simple and seasonal so you can spend more time on the main course.
Do you have any particular favourite simple starters?
I’m a huge fan of smoked meat and smoked salmon - we don’t use them enough in a dinner party style. Smoked salmon can be easily embellished with a little seasoned crème fraiche, with chives, spring onions, maybe a little tin of salmon eggs, and a beautifully dressed crunchy salad, like Little Gem lettuce, a lemon and olive oil dressing, and then maybe some lovely toasted brioche. If you’ve got time to make blinis, make them, but if not bought-in brioche lightly toasted, then straight away you have something that’s extremely simple that doesn’t take more than five minutes to knock up but is extremely delicious.
Are there any great dishes you can prepare the day before?
Slow-cooked meat or anything stewed is always better reheated, so that’s one idea. All your veg can be pre-prepped the day before and kept in the fridge.
What dish would you recommend making for a first date?
Well I would say something simple again - you want to spend more time with your first date than in the kitchen. I would say things such as - and this is my personal favourite as well as my wife’s - seafood. Oysters need very little prep other than opening, lobster mayonnaise, or a crab mayonnaise. Use your fingers for eating and get a bit messy.
If you could only serve one dessert again, what would it be?
Chocolate. But good chocolate, something bitter. It doesn’t matter what dish, as long as it’s got chocolate! Amedei is my favourite chocolate – it’s from Italy.
Who would be your dream dinner party guests?
That’s very difficult. But I’d go for Alex Ferguson - I’m a Man U fan. King Eric, as in Eric Cantona, Alain Prost, the French Formula 1 driver and Escoffier, the French chef. I think the conversation would flow.
What projects do you have going on at the moment?
Other than the Roux Scholarship, I’m working on a new book which will be out in October.
The Roux Scholarship is new and exclusive to Watch, weeknights at 7pm from Monday 10th June