It was cold and dreary when we arrived in Bray. The trip had been long and the morning early. The Waterside Inn, receivers of three Michelin stars for the last three decades, was all go when we pulled up in the car and walked into the main reception. The wait staff were on hand to produce a pot of hot tea and to seat us in the main foyer to wait for Alain Roux. We were there that morning to learn his pineapple ravioli dish, a creation made in tandem with Global Knives to celebrate their own 30 years of existence.
The Roux family holds some of the most famous chefs in the world and their legacy decorated the walls around us. The signed photos, multiple recipe books, and bespoke oil paintings made for interesting viewing as we drank our breakfast.
I was particularly excited by this visit. This was my first trip to a three Michelin starred restaurant, and only my second Roux. I had had the pleasure of meeting and filming Michel Roux Jr. only a few weeks previously at the 2* Le Gavroche in London, and now here was his cousin, Alain, who soon emerged sporting a pair of blue plastic gloves and a wicked smile. We asked whether it was ok for chef to have left the operating theatre, winking at the gloves, and our tiredness faded away amidst eager laughter.
We were led, after tea had been finished, into the main dining room by Alain. The curtains were drawn, and the wait staff flittered this way and that laying the many tables. Our first port of call was a brief interview.
Sophie, one of Global Knives' representatives, had not soon joined us in the dining room when the long curtains were opened, revealing the beautiful River Thames. Two playful swans joined a duck atop a log as it made its way slowly downstream, with the weather mercifully softening as we ticked over to 9am. All I could think of was how very much I wanted to enjoy a long lunch on one of the outside tables on the decking overlooking the river. It was really exquisite.
We conducted the interview near the windows, with Alain playful throughout. To have him take us through the recipe in detail was a real pleasure, and I couldn’t wait to see him in action, almost as much as I looked forward to tucking in at the end - if I was allowed!
The Waterside Inn kitchen was full of life when we walked through, with around twenty chefs preparing hurriedly for lunch service. We positioned the camera to the left of the pass as Alain collected the ingredients for the dish.
For the pineapple ravioli, Alain Roux brought out a fresh pineapple, two coconuts, a bottle of Captain Morgan rum, two tins of coconut water, cream cheese, a pot of honey, star anise, vanilla sugar, lime, and one passion fruit.
He combined water, honey and star anise to create a syrup to start with, boiling the lot on the stove and then leaving to cool.
Next, after removing the top, tail and any remaining ‘eyes’ and skin, Alain carved six slivers of pineapple using a Global knife. The precision needed here was clear, with Alain helped enormously by the razor sharp knife.
The thin slices of pineapple were then placed in the syrup and then into the fridge to marinate. A 24 hour marinade is necessary, and while I would have jumped at the chance to stay in one of the dozen rooms upstairs to wait for this, Alain had actually made some earlier.
By this point, the kitchen had been ramped up a gear, with chefs appearing from every nook and cranny, clutching everything from boiling chicken stock to chocolate éclairs. Very aware that I was now standing static in a thoroughfare, I began weaving around the kitchen, asking questions of the chefs, building early bridges. I am to return to the kitchen as a stagiaire in the next few months, and I wanted them to remember me not as a heavy handed cameraman always in their way.
Alain had started to make the cream filling when I found my way back to my spot behind the camera. This was done by combining a splash of rum, the cream cheese, coconut cream, a pinch of vanilla sugar and four slices of diced marinated pineapple. A whole slice of pineapple was the first to hit the plate, becoming the bottom of the ravioli. The cream filling was then carefully placed on top, with one more sliver of pineapple placed on top and folded under.
He then made the sauce, using a little rum, the water from the centre of a fresh coconut, and a pinch of vanilla sugar. Watching chef open the coconut, using the handle of his knife, was particularly impressive. He cracked the middle of it three times, with the casing easily opening up. I’ve always struggled with coconuts, but thanks to Alain's method, no more.
After drizzling the sauce over the ravioli, with passion fruit seeds and three slices of fresh coconut, it was time to dig in.
With Alain Roux watching intently, I began flicking pieces of chopped up ravioli childishly onto my spoon, covering my hand in syrup, and going very red.
It was so delicious. Perfectly ripe pineapple makes such a difference, while the little flecks of passion fruit and liberal helpings of rum made this an unforgettable mid-morning decadence.
Thanking Alain and chatting nothings as we packed up, I made sure to take a last look around the kitchen. I wanted to see if I could get some early pointers before my stage next month, but I realised that my experience would be a whole lot different once I was there in my chef whites.
I certainly wouldn’t be eating things with my hands and a spoon.