Legendary chef, Las Vegas restaurateur Joel Robuchon dies at 73

Updated August 6, 2018 - 7:03 am

PARIS — Joel Robuchon, a master chef who shook up the stuffy world of French haute cuisine by wowing palates with the delights of the simple mashed potato and giving diners a peek at the kitchen, has died at 73.

His career was one of superlatives: Named among the best craftsmen in France in 1976, crowned cook of the century in 1990, chosen to be one of the cooks at the “dinner of the century,” and, for years, holder of the most Michelin stars in the world.

A spokeswoman for Robuchon confirmed his death, with French TV station BFM and newspaper Le Figaro reporting that he died Monday in Geneva from cancer.

He has two restaurants at MGM Grand in Las Vegas — Joel Robuchon and L’Atelier De Joel Robuchon.

Robuchon was known for his constant innovation and even playfulness in the kitchen — a revelation to the hidebound world of French cuisine. He built an empire of gourmet restaurants across the world — from Paris to Tokyo, Las Vegas and New York City.

“To describe Joel Robuchon as a cook is a bit like calling Pablo Picasso a painter, Luciano Pavarotti a singer, Frederic Chopin a pianist,” Patricia Wells, a cook and food writer, wrote in “L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon,” a book about the chef and his students. “Joel Robuchon will undoubtedly go down as the artist who most influenced the 20th-century world of cuisine.”

 

Many of France’s greatest chefs echoed those sentiments.

French chef Marc Veyrat, whose restaurant holds three stars from the Michelin guide, said “he was someone I love, formidable, extraordinary.” He called Robuchon the “prince of French cuisine” on RTL radio, adding “I’m not afraid to say he inspired me.”

French chef Pierre Gagnaire, also a Michelin three-star chef, wrote on his Instagram account that “the best among us is gone. All my thoughts to his family.”

While Robuchon was no stranger to the fancy — truffles and caviar were among his favorites — his food was often described as simple because he preached the use of only three or four ingredients in most dishes. His goal was always to show off, not mask, their flavors.

He started a revolution with his “Atelier” (workshop in French) business model: small, intimate restaurants where diners sat at a counter surrounding the kitchen. They didn’t take reservations and many didn’t even have tables.

His goal, Robuchon said, was to make diners feel comfortable, let them interact with the chef and, above all, put the focus back on the food. It was partially a rebuke to the Michelin star regime, which awards points not just for technique but also for the ambiance and service.

But Michelin, and just about everyone else, gobbled it up. And thanks to Ateliers around the world, Robuchon reached a total of 32 Michelin stars in 2016 — a record — and still held 31 stars this year, including five three-star restaurants.

Born just before the end of World War II in the French town of Poitiers, south of the Loire Valley, Robuchon studied at a seminary from a young age and considered becoming a priest. But hours spent cooking with the nuns convinced him that he had another calling. He got his professional start at 15 at a local restaurant and by 29 was running the kitchen at a large Paris hotel, in charge of 90 chefs.

For years, his culinary home was at Jamin, a restaurant near the Eiffel Tower that he opened in 1981. The restaurant racked up a Michelin star a year for its first three years — a feat no one had ever accomplished before. The wait for a reservation was two months, even though the price without wine was $200.

Even at this classic restaurant, signs of the ways Robuchon would shake up the culinary scene could be found. For one, his most famous dish was the lowly mashed potato.

“These mashed potatoes, it’s true, made my reputation. I owe everything to these mashed potatoes,” he said once during a demonstration of how to make the almost liquid dish. “Maybe it’s a little bit of nostalgia, Proust’s madeleines. Everyone has in his memory the mashed potatoes of his mother, the mashed potatoes of his grandmother.”

The idea that a restaurant might be a warm, casual place, rather than a stuffy temple to awkward food, was taking root. It was, in part, a rejection of “nouvelle cuisine,” the movement that made French chefs notorious for small plates, exquisitely presented but often not all that satisfying.

But, as long promised, Robuchon hung up his whisk in 1996, at the age of 51.

“You have to know when it’s time to quit,” the chef told The Associated Press at the time. “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 would still consult with other chefs, work on a line of prepared foods, oversee restaurants across the world, but he declared that he was done with slaving away all day at the stove.

And that, some say, is when his career really took off.

In 2003, he came out of retirement to create the Atelier — one opened in Paris and one in Tokyo nearly simultaneously. From there, he brought them to cities all over Asia, Europe and the U.S., and the Michelin stars followed fast and furious.

Guy Job, who produced Robuchon’s cooking shows, called it “3-star food with stainless steel cutlery and glass glasses, not crystal ones.”

His latest new project came this year in Paris with the opening in April of Dassai, a restaurant and tea and cakes salon with, importantly, a bar for tasting sake, the rice-based alcohol of Japan, where the French chef established a presence, and drew inspiration, decades ago. The establishment, not far from the French presidential palace, was opened in collaboration with Dassai sake producer Hiroshi Sakurai.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Benny the Ice Skating Dog
Benny is a Las Vegas Labrador who was rescued by former pro skater Cheryl Del Sanyo, and trained to ice skate. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Nevada State Museum
The Nevada State Museum of Las Vegas, located at the Springs Preserve, covers all eras of the state, from prehistoric to today.
Throw a better dinner party
Cash appears at Baseball Winter Meetings
Lights FC mascot Cash plays the electronic drums at the EZ Inflatables’ booth on Tuesday at the Baseball Winter Meetings trade show at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
5 albums to soundtrack your holiday gatherings in style
1. Various Artists, “Holidays Rule," with Rufus Wainwright, The Shins, Calexico and more. 2. Various Artists, “We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year," with Lemmy Kilmister, Alice Cooper, Chuck Billy and others. 3. Various Artists, “Christmas on Death Row," featuring Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg to name but a few. 4. Bright Eyes, “A Christmas Album.” 5. Various Artists, "The Motown Christmas Album." (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
WinterFest
WinterFest in Henderson.
Miss Rodeo America Fashion Show
The 28 women contestants of Miss Rodeo America compete in a fashion show at the Tropicana on Dec. 7, 2018.
Tournament Of Kings Holiday Show
Wizards and warriors are ready for the holidays at Excalibur's Tournament of Kings Holiday Dinner Show.
Take a dive with the Silverton mermaids
A visit to the Silverton Casino Hotel is not complete without taking in the popular, and very unique, mermaid show.
Cowboys and western aficionados can buy virtually anything at Cowboy Christmas
Vegas Golden Knights Christmas Display
In the Las Vegas Valley, the chances of getting a white Christmas are slim. But this year, you can have a “Knight” Christmas. A Henderson resident has a Christmas lights display that is synchronized to the entrance music for the Golden Knights. GG Misa’s Knights light show is played every 30 minutes from 5 to 10 nightly. His light show consists of two songs: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and the entrance music, “Le Castle Vania,” from the movie “John Wick.” The display is located at 730 Bollons Island St. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Reivew-Journal)
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez is Just in Time For Repeal Day And Christmas
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez Is Just In Time For Repeal Day And Christmas. Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal
TV's LGBT superheroes
Green Valley Ranch's Winter's Village
The Mob Museum
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Quick Chat With Criss Angel
James D. Gish and Susan Anton rehearse
Susan Anton will be special guest at James D. Gish’s holiday concerts Dec. 7 at Summerlin Library and Dec. 9 at Clark County Library. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Winter Wonderland
"Majestic Holiday Magic" at the Bellagio Conservatory.
Underwater Santa At The Silverton
Santa takes a dive Sunday, December 2, at the Silverton Casino Hotel. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Cowabunga Bay Christmas Town
Las Vegas Natural History Museum
Las Vegas Natural History Museum, which opened in 1991, has exhibits of mechanical dinosaurs and taxidermied animals, along with live snakes, fish and sharks. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Magical Forest Lights
Cirque Du Soleil Performers Team Up For New Show "Kinekt"
Through dance, acrobatics and aerial arts, “Kinekt” tells a story all too familiar to modern families: how to maintain a human connection in the digital age. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ethel M Holiday Cactus Garden
The Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas
The Pinball Hall of Fame was created by Tim Arnold and opened in 2006. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jump! The Ultimate Dog Show at Springs Preserve in Las Vegas
Trainer Lou “Mack” McCammon guides several rescue dogs through a series of tricks and jumps two shows a day weekends through December at the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Buddy V - Sep 21 Confidante
Famous Infinity Mirror Room is open in Las Vegas
Yayoi Kusama's "Aftermath of Obliteration of Infinity" mirror room is open at the Bellagio in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like