‘Chef of the century’ Joël Robuchon has died aged 73
Gordon Ramsay and Michel Roux Jr lead tributes to the world's most-Michelin starred chef
Renowned French chef Joël Robuchon has died aged 73 at his home in Geneva on 6 August, a year after his last treatment for pancreatic cancer. Robuchon made an unforgettable contribution to the world of gastronomy, garnering a host of awards and titles during his career. As well as being cited as the ‘chef of the century’ by the Gault et Millau cooking guide in 1990 and winning the Meilleur Ouvrier de France, the chef most notably amassed a total of 31 Michelin stars – more than any other chef in the world.
From redefining haute cuisine to creating the 'perfect mashed potatoes', his influence inspired a generation of talented chefs including Gordon Ramsay and Michel Roux Jr. Ramsay, who was mentored by Robuchon in Paris, wrote on Twitter: "We’ve Lost The God Father of Michelin the most decorated Chef in the World, he kept all of us on our toes! Even when we were sleeping! Merci Chef, God Bless you’ll be missed. [sic]"
British chef Ramsay is said to be the only chef Robuchon ever threw a plate at, revealing in a 2013 interview with The Telegraph: "It was a dish of langoustine ravioli. [Ramsay] hadn’t made it properly. I told him so and Gordon reacted in a very arrogant manner. Although he was very talented, his attitude had always been… difficult. This time, it really got on my nerves and so I threw a plate at him.”
A post shared by Gordon Ramsay (@gordongram) on Aug 6, 2018 at 4:00am PDT
Born in Poitiers in 1945, Robuchon embarked on his career during his time as the student of a seminary school aged 12, when he discovered a passion for food while assisting nuns prepare vegetables. Aged 29, he became head chef of the Hotel Concorde Lafayette in Paris. At 36 he debuted his first restaurant, Le Jamin, and was awarded his first Michelin Star after just a year. Two more followed in the next two years, making history as the fastest restaurant ever to be awarded three stars.
He opened L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon in France in 2006, followed by 12 further branches across the world in locations including London, Tokyo, Las Vegas and Singapore. The perfectionist rose through the ranks of celebrity chefs before suddenly announcing his retirement at aged 51. “A great chef has to be in great shape. Cooking is tough. It’s like being an athlete who has to stay really fit,” he then said.
But he could not stay away for long, launching a whole new concept of community fine dining just a few years later, with restaurants that were sociable, informal and open plan while still serving up the Michelin-star quality he so exemplified. In 2018 he boasted 31 stars, amid five three-star restaurants amid his venues in cities such as Hong Kong, Las Vegas, Tokyo, Bangkok, Paris and Monaco.
It was in Monaco only this May that Tempus experienced a taste of that concept at Monte-Carlo's Hôtel Metropole. Witnessing the complexity and precision of his black-clad chefs in action enhanced our dining experience to no end, building the anticipation of each delightful dish.
And of course, no Robuchon meal would be complete without his "perfect" mashed potatoes, or pommes purée. Undoubtedly his trademark recipe, the dish is made from the simple blend of potatoes, butter, salt and milk, formulated from a 2:1 potato to butter ratio. If Robuchon himself was ever bemused by the popularity of his version of this homely dish, he never let on. “These mashed potatoes, it’s true, made my reputation," he once said. "I owe everything to these mashed potatoes."
Serge Ethuin, general manager at Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo voiced his sadness, sharing the statement: "It is with great sadness that we have learned about Joël Robuchon passing away. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. The entire Metropole Monte-Carlo family is in mourning."