“The world of gastronomy and Michelin is in mourning,” said the guide book’s president following the death of its most decorated chef, Joël Robuchon, on Monday.
Robuchon, who shook up the world of haute cuisine and become a guiding light in France’s post-nouvelle movement, died in Geneva, Switzerland, at the age of 73, following a battle with cancer.
Michelin president Jean-Dominique Senard said: “We lost an artisan, an artist and the most starred of chefs in the world.”
Tributes followed his death, including from Clare Smyth, chef-patron of Core, London, and the only woman to hold and retain three stars, who met Robuchon several times while working for Alain Ducasse.
“Every chef will have been touched by Robuchon’s style of cooking”, she told The Caterer. “It was very distinctive. Everyone knows the Robuchon pomme purée and has probably made it. I think he’s probably one of the greatest chefs in history. The likes of him and Alain Ducasse have really changed the face of the culinary world.
“He did drive home simplicity in flavours – it was always about the three ingredients. However, he was probably the most technical chef in the world. The plates of food were striking, the amount of time that it took to put every dot precisely on every plate – that was phenomenal.”
Born in 1945, Robuchon considered the church before starting as an apprentice in the kitchen aged 15. Aged 36 he opened his first independent venture, Le Jamin, which gained three stars within three years – at the time the fastest rise in the red book’s history. His next eponymous venture would be named Best Restaurant in the World by the International Herald Tribune, while his L’Atelier concept would gain Michelin stars around the globe. L’Atelier’s outpost in London won a Michelin star within its first four months of business, and The Caterer’s Menu of the Year Catey in 2007.
At the time of his death, Robuchon’s 13 restaurants still held 24 of the 31 stars he had gained during his career.
The chef had a dramatic and enduring impact on cuisine both on and off the plate. His L’Atelier concepts popularised counter-top fine-dining; his signature pomme purée, which challenged the techniques of the era with its simplicity, was described as the best of all time; and he mentored many chefs, including Gordon Ramsay, who likened his kitchen to a stint in the SAS.
In an interview with the Michelin Guide just over a month before his death, Robuchon said: “There is a very famous proverb saying that goes something like this: ‘when an old man dies, a library burns down’. I have seen so many good chefs – some famous, some not – who have gone and, with them, a part of knowledge and tradition is lost and nobody can take it back.”
Michel Roux Jr: “I loved every mouthful of food cooked by this man, sad loss. RIP chef.”
Éric Ripert: “Shocked and very sad by the loss of my mentor Joël Robuchon. The most rigorous, precise, demanding, ultra-gifted king of all chefs… RIP Monsieur Robuchon.”
Michael Caines: “I am shocked and saddened to hear the news of the passing of a man than contributed so considerably to French cuisine and the success of cuisine worldwide, holding the most Michelin stars ever held by one chef… My time with him in my formative years as a chef have inspired me and will continue to inspire my work. His loss will be felt throughout the culinary world and by those he mentored so beautifully.”
Claude Bosi: “RIP Mr Robuchon and thank you for what you have given us and have done for the gastronomy française.”