Joël Robuchon, the French chef who taught and inspired many of the world’s finest cooks, has died from cancer at the age of 73.
Before he closed his eponymous restaurant and retired at age 51, Joël Robuchon had already reinvented French cuisine, confounding diners’ expectations by moving beyond the boundaries of Escoffier-inspired classical cooking, elevating humble ingredients and transforming the modest potato into something luxurious: his defining dish of Pommes Purées.
As the most Michelin-starred chef in the world, Robuchon had a restaurant empire spanning from Paris to Tokyo. His first restaurant, Jamin, received three Michelin stars within three years of opening in 1981, and in 1994 he opened the first restaurant bearing his name, receiving the title of Best Restaurant in the World by the International Herald Tribune.
When he won the Lifetime Achievement Award for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2009, Robuchon talked about the pressures of running a three Michelin star restaurant, saying: “I felt incredibly pressurised. I looked at my peers and thought the food we were producing was not a reflection of our competence due to the pressure we were under. Not only that, but I’d worked in a kitchen since I was 15; long, long hours. I lived in France and I’d never seen the mountains. So I decided I would go to 50 and then quit.”
Robuchon retired with the intention of demystifying the world of gastronomy through television, and for the next 10 years, he made cooking more accessible to the public through programmes such as Bon Appetit Bien Sûr.
Later, inspired by his travels to Japan, the concept of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon was born, with a tapas-style menu of smaller dishes and a more informal, “convivial” atmosphere. The first L’Atelier opened in 2003 in Paris, with branches following in Tokyo, Bangkok and beyond.
Robuchon’s death follows that of fellow French cook Paul Bocuse, in January 2018. The gastronomic world has also mourned the deaths of Italian chef Gualtiero Marchesi, in December 2017; US TV personality Anthony Bourdain, in June 2018; and Los Angeles food critic Jonathan Gold, in July 2018.
Tributes have poured in for the chef on social media. Here is a small selection of posts on Instagram from the 50 Best family.
Après Paul Bocuse, un autre père fondateur de la gastronomie française disparaît cette année. Jour de tristesse immense, puisque c’est un peu de notre histoire qui nous quitte avec ce grand visionnaire … Une étoile de plus brille désormais au firmament des grands Chefs. ..... 🇬🇧 After Paul Bocuse, another legend of French gastronomy disappears today, a day of immense sadness. We miss a lot this great visionary, who was a part of our history ... He shines now in the firmament of the great Chiefs. @joel.robuchon 😢 #RIP #robuchon #joelrobuchon #gastronomiefrancaise #legende #3etoiles #lesgrandestablesdumonde #grandchef #guidemichelin Crédit photo @stephanedebourgies
A l’heure où disparaît Joël Robuchon, je me souviens de mon premier repas au Jamin rue de Longchamp dans ce boudoir à l’élégance orientaliste. J’avais 17 ans et je fêtais mon bac. J’avais été ébloui par l’extrême précision de la gelée de caviar à la crème de chou-fleur et par sa purée de pomme de terre brûlante et soyeuse. Maître exigent de la cuisine française, perfectionniste absolu, c’est une référence essentielle qui disparaît aujourd’hui. #joelrobuchon #cuisinefrançaise #rip #gastronomie @lesgrandestablesdumonde