Chefs of Distinction / Chronological

Joël Robuchon


To understand the legend that is Joël Robuchon, one must first see his restless pursuit of giving his best. “I constantly strive; my work is permanent research, my permanent obsession with the quality of one’s labor,” Chef Joël Robuchon said. It has been this total commitment to perfection, achieved through a fiercely disciplined work ethic and a voracious quest for knowledge, which allowed a young man from the countryside of post-war France to brilliantly and skillfully reinvent French cuisine.

Robuchon was born in 1945 in Poitiers, France. His rural upbringing instilled an early appreciation for the gifts of the earth. “[It] brought me close to nature and, most of all, created in me a respect for all living things, a respect for the products of a chef,” he said. He began his schooling at the local seminary yet took any opportunity out of the classroom, usually finding himself in the kitchen helping the nuns. At 15, he took his first restaurant apprenticeship at Relais de Poitiers, doing everything from peeling vegetables to shining copper pots. There, he also spent a formative year doing pastry work. The precision and technical ability the craft demanded stayed with him forever.

At 21, Robuchon joined Compagnons du Tour de France, a professional fraternity of sorts, that took him on apprenticeships with some of the best chefs in the country. Robuchon arrived in Paris in 1965, finding a restaurant world dominated by a quiet reverence for the rules of classical cuisine as set forth by Chef Auguste Escoffier. Robuchon committed himself to fully learning and absorbing these rules, etching the techniques of his trade into his memory so that they became more like natural reflexes.

Yet with time, he began to question boundaries imposed by this classicism. While working at Berkeley restaurant from 1966-69, Robuchon met Chef Jean Delaveyne, a chef who would inspire his interest in creating a cuisine beyond the widely accepted norms. “For me, Delaveyne was the first to help us move out from under the yoke of Escoffier–he was in truth the beginning of nouvelle cuisine, teaching me that cuisine was more than manual, more than technique, that it was also reflection.”

Another liberating influence was Robuchon’s discovery of Japanese cooking. In 1976, he won the coveted Meilleur Ouvrier de France, awarded to chefs who show absolute mastery in their given culinary field. The victory prompted Chef Paul Bocuse to invite Robuchon to teach in Japan. The utter simplicity of Japanese presentations eschewed heavy sauces and garnishes, and the technical prowess required to carry out this kind of cooking, were revolutionary to him. He began to pare down his own presentations refining them to highlight a single, perfect ingredient–a genuinely pioneering move in an era that prized the drama of baroque plating.

In 1981, Robuchon opened Jamin, his first restaurant as Executive Chef/Owner, creating both a laboratory and a stage for his burgeoning, revolutionary cuisine. Those years saw the further streamlining of his dishes. Burdensome garnishes gave way to the use of innovative and flavorful dots and squares of sauces chosen not only for their geometric beauty but for their necessary enhancement of a dish.

Furthermore, this period saw the birth of dishes stunning for their day, which are now legendary signatures. The Gelée de caviar à la crème de Chou-fleur, or Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Caviar, was an elegant reinterpretation of the Russian embrace of sour cream with caviar. The Galette de truffes aux oignons et lard fumé, or Truffle Tart, which drew on his experience as a pastry chef, was a gorgeous showcase for one of his most beloved ingredients. “For me, the truffle is totally 100 percent French. It is the ingredient that has most influenced my cooking and the one that has been most appreciated by my clients,” Robuchon recalled.

His Pommes purées, or mashed potatoes, a humble sounding dish that acquired near cult status, exemplifies one of his basic cooking principles: “To make a grand meal, you have to make it simple. To look simple is very complicated. You need the highest quality products, the best equipment and you have to keep the focus on the original flavor of the product.” Indeed the recipe for this dish, with its multitude of steps, its cooking time that varies according to the stage of potato-picking season, its precise salt-to-boiling water ratios and requirement for an absolute silkiness achieved through the laborious use of a micro-fine drum sieve, all attest to the thoroughness and skill that even the most simple-sounding dish requires.

Jamin was awarded its first Michelin star three months after opening when Robuchon was but 36 years old. The second star came the following year and the third star the year after, marking the quickest ascent in Michelin history. With his characteristic modesty on accepting the award, Robuchon remarked that he was not worthy of the third star, but rather now had the privilege of working toward its daily justification.

Needing a larger kitchen and a more elegant dining room for his guests, Robuchon closed Jamin in 1993 and opened the more opulent Joël Robuchon in 1994. In this new home, he further refined his cuisine infusing it with bold touches and more creativity. He added Plats du Voyage, a menu based on travels, thus incorporating inspirations from outside of France. He created what has been called a “cuisine invisible” in which a multiple of ingredients and seemingly disparate flavors meld together into a delicious, coherent whole. Robuchon closed his eponymous restaurant in 1996 at the age of 51, explaining he was retiring.

He then devoted himself to sharing his vast knowledge through magazine columns, cookbooks, the development of a product line and television appearances. But the master chef could not stay away from the stove. In 2001, he opened Robuchon à Galera in Macau. This was followed by a much-anticipated Paris opening of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, his very modern and genteel take on casual dining. The success of L’Atelier in Paris prompted the opening of one in Tokyo. This was followed by additional restaurant openings in Tokyo, Monaco and Paris. In 2005, Robuchon ventured west, opening Joël Robuchon and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, finally bringing the genius of his cooking to American shores.

The legacy of Joël Robuchon is that of a chef who took the great canon of French cooking, thoroughly steeped himself in its wisdom then redefined it through a bold exploration of new flavors, influences, ingredients, and techniques. Along the way, he has created a legion of fans and has served as an invaluable mentor to a new generation of chefs who cite his name as they forge ahead, pushing the envelope of how we define great cuisine.

Joël Robuchon

Restaurants Around The World


Las Vegas

Joël Robuchon Restaurant

MGM Grand Hotel & Casino

3799 Las Vegas Boulevard, South

Las Vegas, NV USA

Tel. +1 702 891 7925

Fax +1 702 891 7356

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

MGM Grand Hotel & Casino

3799 Las Vegas Boulevard, South

Las Vegas, NV USA

Tel. +1 702 891 7358

Fax +1 702 891 7356

New York

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Four Seasons Hotel NY

57 East 57th Street

New York, NY 10022 USA

Tel. +1 212 350 6658

Fax +1 212 893 6882

Monaco

Joël Robuchon Monte Carlo

Hotel Metropole

4 avenue de la Madone

BP 19 – MC 98007

MONACO cedex

Tel. +337 93 15 15 15

Fax +377 93 25 24 44

London

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

13-15 West Street

London WC2H 9NE

ENGLAND

Tel +44 (0)20 7010 8600

Fax +44 (0)20 7010 8601

La Cuisine de Joël Robuchon

13-15 West Street

London WC2H 9NE

ENGLAND

Tel +44 (0)20 7010 8600

Fax +44 (0)20 7010 8601

Paris

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

5 rue de Montalembert

75007 Paris

FRANCE

Tel +33 (0)1 42 44 56 56

Fax +33 (0)1 42 22 97 91

La Table de Joël Robuchon

16 avenue Bugeauo

57116 Paris

FRANCE

Tel +33 (0)1 56 28 16 16

Fax +33 (0)1 56 28 16 78

Tokyo

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Roppongi Hills Hillside, 2F 6-10-1

Roppongli Minato-ku

Tokyo 106 0032 JAPAN

Tel. +81 (0)3 5772 7500

Fax +81 (0) 3 5772 7789

Chateau Restaurant

Joël Robuchon

Yebisu Garden Place 1-31-1 Mita

Meguraku Tokyo 153-0062 JAPAN

Tel +81 (0)3 5424 1347

Fax +81 (0) 5424 1339

Macau

Robuchon à Galera

Hotel Lisboa

2-4 Avenida de Lisboa

MACAU

Tel + 853 377 666

Fax +853 567 193

Hong Kong

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Shop 405, 4/F The Landmark

15 Queen’s Road, Central

HONG KONG

Tel +852 2166 9000

Fax +852 2166 9600

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