News & Views 7 minutes 06 August 2018

Chefs Around The World Mourn The Loss Of Culinary Giant Joel Robuchon

An outpouring of grief from the culinary world for the legendary French chef who died today at the age of 73.

in memoriam celebrity chefs Joël Robuchon

In the wake of the death of one of the culinary world's brightest luminaries, chefs around the world have taken to social media to express their grief and pay tribute to Joel Robuchon, who passed away of cancer earlier today at the age of 73.

The world-renowned celebrity chef ran an empire of 13 restaurants in countries such as France, Thailand and the United Kingdom, which have garnered 24 Michelin stars cumulatively. Many of the world's top chefs today have passed through Robuchon's kitchens — his proteges include celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and French legend Dominique Bouchet. His work has inspired a whole generation of chefs, many of whom have taken to social media to express their grief and pay tribute to the culinary maestro.
Yannick Alleno of three-Michelin-starred Alléno Paris au Pavillon Ledoyen in Paris was emotional in his tribute. He said on Instagram: "Goodbye Joel, World Cuisine loses the master, a reference for all of us, your rigour, your vision. I think of all of your students as orphans like all of us."

"What a shock... The best of us is gone, all my thoughts to his family," wrote French contemporary Pierre Gagnaire who helms the world-renowned eponymous three-starred restaurant in Paris.

Gaggan Anand of two-Michelin-starred Gaggan in Bangkok expressed his shock at the passing of another prominent French chef following Paul Bocuse's death in January this year: "France loses another culinary legend this year! Most starred chef ever! Hope his restaurants survives this trauma. Black day for culinary world."

"After Paul Bocuse, another founding father of french gastronomy disappears this year. Day of immense sadness..." echoes Andoni Luis Aduriz of two-Michen-starred Mugaritz in Spain.

"Shocked and very sad by the loss of my Mentor Joël Robuchon," says Eric Ripert on Instagram. "The most rigorous, precise, demanding ultra-gifted King of all Chefs. RIP Monsieur Robuchon."

French chef Arnaud Dunand Sauthier of the two-Michelin-starred Le Normandie in the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok had this to say on his social media: "R.I.P chef. You will always be an example for all of us." He adds: "I was really surprised by this news, I did not know he was so sick. I think Joel Robuchon was someone who set French cuisine on [the road to] splendor. He was for sure one of the greatest chefs in the world and the mentor of great chefs like Frederic Anton, Sebastian Lepinoy and many others. He will always be a model for all of us."

In Singapore, one of Robuchon’s proteges is chef Sebastien Lepinoy, executive chef of two Michelin-starred Les Amis. His long working relationship with Robuchon started on 6 September 1993 when he joined the legendary French chef’s restaurant, Jamin in Paris as a commis chef at 18.

Lepiony recalls: “Robuchon was always in the kitchen every day. He never missed one service, and till today, this has a great impact on me. It could be one of the reasons why I am always in the kitchen and why I decline all invitations to cook overseas with other renowned chefs.”

Under his tutelage, Lepinoy learnt that an organised kitchen is paramount to serving quality and consistent food. He adds: “The way he organised the kitchen was simply superb! His method of organising the kitchen, selecting quality ingredients, and ensuring that each dish served is of equal standard has definitely rubbed off on me.”

His last fond memory of Robuchon was at the inaugural MICHELIN Guide Singapore gala in 2016, where Joël Robuchon Restaurant and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon were bestowed with three and two stars respectively, while Les Amis was lauded with two stars. “He was very happy and gave me a big hug,” Lepinoy recalls. “Someone close to Robuchon said on that day, ‘Joel received 7 stars, and not just 5!’”

Besides using the best ingredients and cultivating a great service team, Lepinoy shared that Robuchon also taught him to “cook with love and be generous with the guests” and “try to create a simple dish because the more simple it is, the more difficult it is to do.” He also learnt the virtues of being patient and not giving up, noting that Robuchon gained worldwide recognition after he came out of premature retirement at 50 in 1995.

Lepinoy is confident that Robuchon’s legacy "will continue to burn brightly in the hearts and minds of chefs around the world". He says: “For me, I feel a little pressured, as it is now my job to pass on the lessons he has taught me — from cooking techniques, developing a restaurant concept to running a restaurant effectively — to my team.”

“I will try my best to honour Mr Robuchon with my style of cooking, and hopefully he will be proud of me from wherever he is now.”

Kirk Westaway of one-Michelin-starred JAAN in Singapore recalls receiving his first Michelin star at the 2016 MICHELIN Guide Singapore gala where Robuchon was in attendance. He said in his post on Instagram: "Again, another very sad day for the culinary world. A true hero and legend, a man who changed the face of restaurants across the globe. Always a memorable moment collecting my first Michelin star with this man on stage. This one hurts."

Mathieu Escoffier, French chef and co-owner of Ma Cuisine which received its first Michelin star this year praised the legend: "What struck me most about Joel Robuchon was his ability to lead, instead of following culinary trends. His culinary philosophy is one of the best, if not the best in the world to date. He taught me humility and respect for ingredients. For him, this was key to a good dish — allowing the best natural flavours to shine through without over-manipulating it."

Beppe de Vito, of one-Michelin-starred Braci who has dined with Robuchon on several private occasions adds, “I am shocked. The last time I saw him he was looking really good and healthy. The gastronomy scene has lost an inspiration, and my team and I are absolutely gutted.”

A visit to L'Atelier in the 1990s inspired Singaporean restaurateur Ignatius Chan who went on to establish fine dining grande dame Iggy's. He recalls: "I had a great meal at Jamin in Paris in the 1990s. In many ways, L’Atelier was one of the key influences when I first conceptualised Iggy’s in 2004. The dining counter was firstly inspired by Japanese Kappo dining. After dining in L’Atelier in Paris and Tokyo, it boosted my confidence that counter dining can be well executed in western dining. In fact the design concept can greatly enhance the dining experience. We join the culinary world in mourning the passing of Chef Robuchon and send our deepest condolences to his family."

For those closest to Robuchon, working under him and taking trusted positions in his worldwide empire of restaurants, the chef's passing is akin to losing a father figure. Olivier Limousin, who heads the Bangkok outpost of L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon said in his Facebook post: "R.I.P Mr Robuchon, this is a sad day... Thank you for being my master, my model, my source of inspiration, thank you for trusting me. By your side for 14 years, you're made me grow professionally and humanly. In the family "Robuchon" we called you dad, so I say 'farewell, dad'."

Over in Taipei, Olivier Jean who has in March this year steered the L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon to one -star status says, "Thank You Mr Robuchon for everything you have transmitted to us."

“After Paul Bocuse, another legend of French gastronomy disappears today, a day of immense sadness,” says Anne-Sophie Pic. “We [will] miss this great visionary, who was a part of our history...He shines now in the firmament of the great chefs.”

Lorenz Hoja has dedicated more than a decade to working with the French master at his restaurants in London, Paris and Singapore. He helped the recently-closed L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon at Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore, which earned two Michelin stars for two consecutive years in 2016 and 2017. He posted this homage on Facebook: "Merci papa and have a safe trip. Rest in peace, my mentor, my inspiration, my dedication, MY CHEF! You will be greatly missed. Thank you for what you gave to me over the last 12 years and thank you for what you gave to the whole industry all your life. My deepest condolences go to Mr Robuchon's family."

Daniel Boulud shared his condolences on Instagram: "In the history of French cuisine, very few masters ever reach the level of knowledge and perfection in mastering the art of french cooking. It is very sad to lose a colleague and mentor to so many chefs around the globe. France lost our most coveted Michelin star chef in the world."

"I woke up to learn of the passing of my mentor and one of the greatest chefs in the world, Mr. Joël Robuchon," says Salvatore Martone, corporate executive pastry chef of Robuchon's restaurants in the United States. "He taught me to always strive for excellence and to never settle. He will live on in our memories forever."

Pastry pro Dominique Ansel recalls the legendary chef at a young age. “When I was a kid growing up in France, I remember running home from school for lunch just so I could catch Joël Robuchon’s TV show,” he says on Instagram. “He taught so many of us what it meant to be a chef and how to strive for perfection. Merci, Chef. You will be missed.”

"Merci Chef Joël Robuchon for your for your outstanding contributions to our profession," says Thomas Keller in a heartwarming Instagram post. "You were one of the greatest influences for our generation and had a reach that cannot easily be measured. With unparalleled precision, you captivated the culinary audience to reinforce the importance of fine dining and made elevated dining approachable. You also brought higher quality food to consumers and taught a generation about sous vide cooking."

“So heartbroken,” expresses Dominique Crenn of two-Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn in San Francisco. “Monsieur Robuchon…you will be missed. Thank you for all you have done. RIP.”

Argentinean celebrity chef, author and restaurateur, Francis Mallmann encapsulated Robuchon's legacy with his tribute: "Joel Robuchon the chef who took cooking into a true and glorious language of his own. And who praised simplicity. So, so sad to see him part. He made so many generations know and dream that the kitchen was a home in were we could live our life with silent joy."

Chef Mikael Mikaelidis, who joined the Joël Robuchon group in 2011, as Chef de Cuisine of  L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Hong Kong and moved to Singapore to helm Joël Robuchon restaurant and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon two years later, wrote an emotional post on Facebook. 

He wrote in French: "A Father, a man with a great heart, a visionary, genius of gastronomy and especially for all of us an example to follow and honour forever! Thank you dear Mr Robuchon and watch over us from the top and the star that will shine more than all the others."

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