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Tributes pour in for Joël Robuchon, “Michelin Star French Chef Extraordinaire”, who died aged 73

Written by Aksel Ritenis

Tributes pour in for Joël Robuchon, Michelin star French chef, who died aged 73

 

“He was Jesuit-trained and maybe there was something Jesuitical in his attention to detail. I am not sure he was the greatest post-war chef, that honour might go to Alain Senderens who also died recently, but he was fantastic, and certainly less gimmicky than Bocuse. I remember a meal at Jamin, not long before it closed. Those dishes like the coco beans and truffles that were simple and sensational. And there was something with cauliflower and caviar that was out of his world.After he retired, and before his comeback as the man behind the Ateliers, I was invited to Bruno Paillard’s 25th anniversary lunch. It was in BP’s house in Rheims and there must have been 20 or so of us. At one point I turned round to see who was cooking our meal: there he was,……the great man,……… and we had the famous mashed potatoes!”

Quote from *Giles MacDonogh

*MacDonogh is the author of fourteen books (including Brillat-Savarin, The Judge and His Stomach
John Murray, UK 1992) on subjects as diverse as German history, French “gastronomy and wine”.He has written for major newspapers in Britain and Europe such as the Financial Times, the Guardian, the Times and FT Deutschland. He contributes to magazines all over the world and continues to pen a Wine and Food Diary (http://www.macdonogh.co.uk)His lates book is “On Germany”  is avail. in UK bookstores and on Amazon.

 

Joel Robuchon Facebook Image

The French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to Robuchon’s global standing as an innovative chef adored worldwide. “Joel Robuchon’s style was above all about a fundamental, almost obsessional, focus on the quality of produce,” said a statement from the president’s office, lauding the perfectionism that turned the simplicity of his dishes into “accomplished harmony”.

Robuchon was a French chef and restaurateur. He was named “Chef of the Century” by the guide Gault Millau in 1989 and awarded the Meilleur Ouvrier de France (France’s best worker) in cuisine in 1976. He published several cookbooks, two of which have been translated into English, chaired the committee for the Larousse Gastronomique, and hosted culinary television shows in France.

Robuchon built up a multimillion-euro global empire of 39 establishments, from fine restaurants to clubs. In 2016, he held a world record 32 Michelin stars. This year, he still had 31 stars, including five three-star restaurants. He owned and managed  restaurants in cities including Paris, Monaco, Hong Kong, Las Vegas, Tokyo and Bangkok.

But Robuchon had also become a celebrity chef who insisted it was important to pass his knowledge on, with TV shows, books, courses and even by advising supermarket brands.

French celebrity chef Joël Robuchon will be remembered for many reasons, earning more than 30 Michelin stars, creating “the world’s best mashed potato”, and reportedly hurling a plate at a young and “difficult” Gordon Ramsay when mentoring him.

“Throughout his career Robuchon was  critical of the stuffy, snobbish and pressurised world of French restaurant rankings, where he felt ironed tablecloths were wrongly taking precedence over the value of flavours.”After his health scares,rather ironically he ditched his obsession with butter and oil and lost 26 kgs in weight and apparently adjusted  his cooking style as well !

Little wonder that he eventually  burst back on to the restaurant scene a few years later with “fresh ideas about the notion of community and shared, sociable eating”. Robuchon was credited with transforming restaurant tradition with his notion of ateliers(workshops) intimate restaurants where diners sat at a counter surrounding the kitchen!

Early History

Born in 1945 in Poitiers, France, Robuchon was one of four children. He worked as a cook in the Châtillon-sur-Sèvre seminary in the Deux-Sèvres.In 1960, at the age of 15, he became an apprentice chef at the Relais of Poitiers hotel, starting as a pastry chef.In 1966, at the age of 21, he joined the apprenticeship “Compagnon du Tour de France”, enabling him to travel throughout the country, learning a variety of regional techniques. Then In 1974, at the age of 29, Robuchon was appointed as head chef at the Hôtel Concorde de La Fayette.In 1976, at the age of 31, he won the Meilleur Ouvrier de France for his craftsmanship in culinary arts.From 1987 to 1990, he was regularly invited on French TV (“Quand c’est bon ?… Il n’y a pas meilleur !”, on FR3, with François Roboth as moderator. He was also the author of too many Cookbooks  to mention here,.. 

In 1989, Robuchon was called “Chef of the Century” by Gault Millau. He later started his own restaurant in Paris called Jamin .

“The luxurious dishes he would go on to create – Langoustine and truffle ravioli, or Slow-cooked pigeon with foie gras – would give no hint of this humble beginning.”He also acknowledged that the  older he got the more he realised the truth is: “the simpler the food, the more exceptional it can be,” he told Business Insider in 2014.“I never try to marry more than three flavours in one dish. I like walking into a kitchen and knowing that the dishes are identifiable and the ingredients within them easy to detect.”

In 1995, Robuchon retired at the age of 50,…out of concerns for his health however, he soon  staged a comeback, opening several restaurants bearing his name around the world using his Atelier concept  which “promoted a more casual workshop style of Dining.”

Sadly,.. in June 2018, Resort World Singapore stated that both the three-Michelin-starred Joel Robuchon Restaurant and the two-starred L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon would close at the end of the month.

The revered Robuchon died from cancer on 6 August, 2018, a year after receiving treatment for a pancreatic tumour.He had attained the age of 73

But it could have been quite different,…apparently “He initially wanted to be a priest” but luckily for food-lovers everywhere, Robuchon discovered a passion for cooking while working alongside the nuns as a student at a seminary, and at the age of 15 entered his first kitchen as an apprentice.

Later, everyone would assume the rebellious act of dressing himself and his chefs in black instead of the traditional white was a nod to his Catholicism.

 

*Written and Compiled by Axel Ritenis,Editor of Connoisseur Magazine UK

The author acknowledges the use of extensive source material and quotations from WIKEPEDIA and The Guardian, and other sources.

Images from Facebook and the Joel Robuchon company website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aksel Ritenis

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