Michel J. Roche, 84, of Williamsburg, passed away on September 20, 2023.
Michel was raised in Le Puy, France as the only child to Victor and Renee Roche, until he moved to America at the age of 23. During his childhood in France, he was introduced to the art of gourmet cooking by his mother, who was also a chef. Michel was fortunate enough to have trained under top chefs at esteemed restaurants such as, “Lido” in Paris under the tutelage of distinguished French Executive Chef Lechain. Upon learning of the young and talented Michel Roche, the world- renowned restaurant “Maxim’s de Paris” quickly recruited him where he again had the opportunity to continue honing his gourmet and artistic cooking talents under the acclaimed Maxim’s Executive Chef.
During his time at Maxim’s, alongside the Executive Chef, Michel had the honor of cooking for an array of distinguished guests such as; Aristotle Onassis, Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth, Shah of Iran, Princess Margaret and more, where he and Chef received numerous gracious dining room standing ovations.
Michel’s hard work and determination allowed him to establish his secure footing in the Parisian gourmet scene. It wasn’t long before he was invited to compete as a “European Top Chef” resulting in his earning First prize for the Russian competition.
These worthy accomplishments were achieved before he moved to America at the young age of 23.
In America, his esteemed career would encompass working in New York at top French restaurants. He was again recruited to join the brand-new Washington DC “Madison Hotel” as Chef, as well as the renowned “International Club”. Michel had the distinct pleasure of cooking for the President, Senators and Congressmen. He coordinated receptions for the Kennedy’s, Inauguration of President Johnson, and many functions for foreign dignitaries.
His gourmet journey also included cooking for well-known stars such as John Wayne, Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner, and bands such as “The Police”, “Billy Squire” and many others.
Michel met his love, Priscilla Wright-Roche in Washington DC, married and proceeded to have 3 wonderful children; Thierry, Dominique and Christophe. After Michel accepted an opportunity to run 8 top restaurants (one of which was Michelin star rated) within 2 acclaimed ski resorts, they moved to Keystone Colorado to raise their children on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains!
While in Colorado Michel’s exquisite and artistic cooking quickly earned top notoriety and he was asked to appear on several episodes of the “AM Colorado” TV show, as well as author a regularly appearing column in the newspaper titled “Bon Appetite”. The Governor of Colorado quickly became one of his regular dining guests during his vacations to the ski slopes.
Michels next stop in his gourmet adventures would land him in Memphis Tennessee where he embraced the role of Executive Director of Food and Beverage at the famous “Peabody Hotel”.
During his wonderful career, he had the pleasure of forming a treasured friendship with Julia Childs. Their friendship bonded over mouth-watering meals, and lovely conversations. They could be found dining together at a favored restaurant in the Peabody Hotel where they celebrated Julia’s 80th birthday.
Michel loved his family exceptionally and was incredibly dedicated to his wife. He always said his most honored achievement and blessed role was that of being a worthy father and loving husband. His incredible humbleness, kind soul (he loved nature and animals), vibrant and loving French witty character (always invoking laughter), his incredible mentorship, and his utmost integrity not only earned him the love, respect and admiration of his staff/proteges, but most importantly, of his 3 children and 9 grandchildren who could simply not imagine any better soul to be their father and “Poppy”. Words cannot express how much he is loved and how deeply he is already missed. Simply and lovingly stated by his children, “There is no other like him, and never will be. We feel so loved, complete and better human beings… because of you Dad. You are our true hero.”
Michel is survived by, his wife, Priscilla Wright-Roche; children, Thierry (Jenny) Roche, Dominique (David) Roche-Koval, and Christophe (Gretchen) Roche; and grandchildren, Aubrey Roche, Riley Roche, Avery Roche, Selah Roche, Ian Roche, Cassie Roche, Christian Roche, Lilia Koval, and Kaydin Koval.
A celebration of life will be held on Sunday, October 8, 2023 at 2:00 PM at Bucktrout Funeral Home.
Celebration of Life
Bucktrout Funeral Home - Directions
4124 Ironbound Road
Williamsburg, VA 23188