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At the forefront of Chef Patron Alain Roux’s new Culinary School at The Waterside Inn stand meticulously chosen Caesarstone surfaces. 

For over five decades, three Michelin-starred restaurant The Waterside Inn in Bray-on-Thames, Berkshire, has stood as an epitome of culinary excellence. Continuing its legacy, Chef Patron Alain Roux and his wife, in-house designer Laura Roux, have recently inaugurated a state-of-the-art Culinary School. This unique centre of education and training features an impressive array of Caesarstone surfaces – including 4033 Rugged Concrete, 4001 Fresh Concrete and 4011 Cloudburst Concrete – highlighting Caesarstone’s pivotal role in shaping the School’s aesthetic and functionality from its very foundation. 

We caught up with Alain and Laura to discuss this new space, the inspiration behind it, Caesarstone’s role, and how the School has been performing since its launch.  

Alain Roux and the Waterside Inn teamCan you tell us about The Waterside Inn?          
LAURA: The Waterside Inn is an elegant ‘restaurant with rooms’ in the village of Bray-on-Thames, Berkshire, offering classic French cuisine, fine French wines, and world class hospitality – set in beautiful riverside surroundings. 

The late Michel Roux OBE opened The Waterside Inn in 1972 with his brother, Albert. In the inaugural UK Michelin Guide, published in 1974, The Waterside Inn won its first Michelin star, then received its second in 1977, and third in 1985. The three stars have been retained to this day, the longest spell of any restaurant in the world outside France (39 years).

waterside-inn-03Alain Roux has been Chef Patron since 2001. Working closely with Joint Head Chefs Fabrice Uhryn and Adam Wright, he takes a refined approach to French cuisine whilst adapting dishes to a modern interpretation. Consistently excellent, classical French cuisine is the hallmark of The Waterside Inn, with a seasonal menu and an emphasis on quality ingredients and exceptional presentation and preparation.  

The wine list is exclusively French and extends to over 1,000 labels. It offers a fine array of different prices, styles, regions, grape varieties and even bottle sizes.

The Waterside Inn also offers luxury accommodation, boasting 11 beautifully designed suites, each individually furnished with unique touches and sumptuous soft furnishings, complete with luxurious ensuite bathrooms. The rooms offer understated luxury, with every detail taken care of.  

What about the Culinary School? What were the inspiration and intent behind it?      

ALAIN: In August 2023, we unveiled our new state-of-the-art Culinary School and Michel Roux Library. A first for a three Michelin-starred restaurant in the UK, the School is an inspired conversion of my late father’s, Michel Roux OBE, riverside home, tucked behind The Waterside Inn. Created as a unique centre of culinary education and training for our own kitchen and front of house staff, it is also a fantastic facility for our guests.

A variety of bespoke, unique cookery classes, courses, demonstrations, and immersive masterclass packages are on offer, to enjoy in a fun, relaxed and beautiful setting. Already boasting one of the best training kitchens dedicated to classic French cuisine in the UK, The Waterside Inn’s new School elevates and enhances the Roux culinary legacy, offering an exciting resource for people who share my family’s passion for food and hospitality.

LAURA: Under the guidance of Alain and Chef Instructor, Michael Nizzero, each class provides a hands-on opportunity to learn some Roux recipes, whilst developing your culinary skills in the home of French cuisine in the UK.

The School boasts a stylish, contemporary, fully equipped six-station studio kitchen overlooking a beautiful culinary garden, complete with demo section and media equipment enabling broadcast and recording facilities. The studio set up was courtesy of Suited and Booted, who worked closely with us on every detail. 

The School is looking forward to hosting to future Roux Scholarship Final Cook Off competitions, starting with the 2024 Final with Chef Thomas Keller, the legendary US chef, as Honorary Chairman of the Judges. The School can be considered as the natural home for The Roux Scholarship, founded by the late Michel and Albert Roux in 1984 and celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Alain is Co-chairman alongside his cousin, Michel.

The Michel Roux Library houses Alain’s and his father’s extensive collection of culinary titles, including many rare and antique cookery books, along with Michel’s own 14 literary works, including copies published in at least 12 different languages. This forms a unique resource for all team members and visitors to share.

What was the design brief for the Culinary School? What elements did you really want incorporated into the space, and why?               

LAURA: We worked closely with SNUG Kitchens, based in Newbury, who interpreted our detailed requirements to produce a timeless, beautiful kitchen design and seamless installation. We wanted to achieve a professional yet homely look and feel that would appeal to professional and amateur cooks alike. Our aim was to create a functional, practical, modern kitchen with a timeless aesthetic. Top priority elements included ease of cleaning, high performance equipment and facilities all set in a space that had to be comfortable and functional, making the most of all space available.

The kitchen is multi-functional and multi-purpose, as it hosts diverse groups and individuals of various backgrounds, nationalities, ages and abilities, including amateur guests and visitors, plus chefs, kitchen and front of house professionals. The kitchen must perform many different functions such as hosting masterclass demos, cookery lessons, media broadcasts and special events, such as the annual Roux Scholarship final cook-off and bespoke group bookings.

Have you used Caesarstone surfaces before?             
LAURA: We have featured Caesarstone in some of our bedrooms, including the bar area in our Oarsman suite, but never in a professional work setting before. Caesarstone surfaces were recommended to us for the Culinary School as a high-quality product.

ALAIN: We reviewed various comparable surfaces and tested each one thoroughly before making our final choice. We put all the samples, including marble, granite and ceramic, through some extreme trials, testing durability, strength, heat, stain, scratch resistance and overall integrity. Caesarstone was the easy winner. Combined with the endless choice of designs and finishes available, it was way ahead of the competition.   

Which Caesarstone surfaces did you choose and why?          

LAURA: For our demo presentation area, we chose a 4033 Rugged Concrete, we love its deep textured finish We wanted to achieve an artisanal look and feel, like you might find in a butcher’s shop or creamery, and this surface was the perfect solution. For the island, we chose 4001 Fresh Concrete, a crisp white concrete-inspired design with subtle grey tones. We wanted to achieve a ‘ton sur ton’ effect, with matching natural tones throughout, to create a timeless look and feel that would complement the beautiful garden and river views.

For the hand-basin and coffee station area surfaces, we chose 4011 Cloudburst Concrete, another soft, creamy-based surface that matches the overall aesthetic of the space.

As a chef, why did you select Caesarstone for such a high-traffic, hardworking kitchen?     

ALAIN: We chose Caesarstone because it gives us complete peace of mind. It’s sturdy, easy to clean, hygienic, and resistant to heat, stains and scratches, plus it comes with a long warranty. Last but not least, it always looks pristine. The product is simply beautiful and bomb-proof, requiring zero maintenance. We love the natural textures, the amazing range of colours it comes in, and the fact that it can be cut to any size. What more could you ask for!

waterside-inn-06The Caesarstone sales and customer team were also a delight to work with, making the whole process from selection through to installation, as smooth as possible. Each team member works with you to help achieve your goals and we have been impressed by the very efficient, friendly, professional, expert service.

Now the School is open, how do you feel about the surface design and how it is performing now it’s in use?         

ALAIN: We could not be happier with Caesarstone’s performance. The staff and clients who have been using the School are impressed with it, inspiring lots of interest and enquiries.      

Photography by James Mason