Hélène Darroze is a fourth-generation chef who did not take the typical route into the culinary world. In 1990 after graduating from University with a degree in Business she took a role in the office of Le Louis XV restaurant in Monaco. The restaurant was run by world renowned chef Alain Ducasse who eventually convinced Darroze to take a job in the kitchen. After three years she returned home to the acclaimed family restaurant in Landes, south west France taking a role as a chef.
In 1999 the restaurant closed down after suffering financial difficulties. Towards the end of the same year, Darroze moved to Paris where she opened Restaurant Hélène Darroze. Two years later the restaurant won its first Michelin Star, with a second coming two years later. In 2008 as part of a £70m refurbishment of The Connaught hotel in Mayfair Hélène was named the replacement for Angela Hartnett who had run the restaurant on behalf of Gordon Ramsay holdings up until this point. Alongside the new décor also came a new name for the reopening of the restaurant within the hotel: Hélène Darroze at The Connaught. The restaurant won its first Michelin star in 2004 with Angela Hartnett at the helm, but it was Hélène Darroze who would drive the kitchen to further success, gaining its second star in 2008, just months after its reopening.
Despite its numerous awards, the Connaught restaurant has not been without criticism. Infamous food critic Jay Rayner after a visit in 2008 wrote in The Guardian that he had
“ Two of the very worst dishes ever to be served to me at this level; food which creates a whole new category of awful, which encourages you to pick up one of those shiny silver forks and stab it into the hand of the nearest waiter.”
Unfortunately Darroze lost her second star for her Paris restaurant in the 2010 edition of the Michelin Guide. She has however, retained one star since it was awarded.
Darroze is the mother of two adopted daughters, Charlotte and Quiterie, from different orphanages in Vietnam. Running two thriving restaurants in different countries comes with its own set of unique problems when adding young children into the picture. Commuting between London and Paris on a regular basis, Darroze is often accompanied by her daughters who themselves have become regular commuters from a young age.
Darroze was the inspiration for the character Colette Tatou in the 2007 film Ratatouille. In 2015 at the World’s 50 Best Restaurant awards in London, Hélène was named the World’s Best Female Chef. Still at the top of her game at the age of 50, in a male dominated industry, running 2 highly successful restaurants in different countries and raising 2 children single handed, she might just be a real world super woman.