Joël Robuchon, inarguably one of the most celebrated names in French gastronomy, died today (Monday, 6 August, 2018), according to French news site Le Figaro. It was reported that Robuchon was battling pancreatic cancer. The French chef was 73 years old.
In addition to grieving family, friends and peers, it is a devastating blow for the global food community at large, including those of us who are still struggling with the sudden passing of chef-author and TV host, Anthony Bourdain. While Bourdain ruled the arena of food media, Robuchon’s name has been inextricably linked to the gold standard of French fine dining for decades, a chef whose infinite list of awards and accolades — including at one point holding a total of 28 Michelin stars, the most of any chef in the world — attests to his vast, valuable and long-standing contribution to the world of gastronomy.
Robuchon’s career started humbly; the son of a bricklayer and youngest of four children, his first real introduction to the kitchen was at the age of 15, working as a trainee in the hotel, Relais Poitiers. Studious and exacting, he rose quickly in the ranks of the culinary world, graduating to sous chef and eventually attaining the position of Executive Chef at the hotel, Concordia-Lafayette, where he oversaw 90 chefs at the young age of 29. Six years later, he was ready to open his first restaurant; the rest, as they say, is history.
From Janin, his first widely acclaimed restaurant in the heart of Paris’ 16th arrondisement, Robuchon went on to launch no less than 22 restaurants spanning 13 countries across four continents, from casual bistros to fine-dining Michelin-starred gems. Famously “retiring” at age 50 only to come back to the restaurant world after a restless decade out of the kitchen, Robuchon debuted perhaps his most successful concept yet: L’atelier de Joel Robuchon, a warm and convivial dining room which upended the traditional notion of stuffy, white tablecloth French fine dining. In Hong Kong, L’atelier de Joel Robuchon at the Landmark has held three Michelin stars for six consecutive years, including in 2018’s guide.
Known for his tireless work ethic, meticulousness in the kitchen, and an affable personality — not to mention his generous attitude towards teaching and mentoring the next generation of chefs — it is no exaggeration to say that Joel Robuchon was one of the greatest and most influential chefs of the century. He will be sorely missed.