Joël Robuchon, the most decorated chef in the history of the coveted Michelin Guide, arguably the most prestigious distinction a professional food preparer could ever hope to achieve, died on Monday at the age of 73.
Although the culinary star was old-school in his background and execution, it was his reputation for creating original recipes and establishing the norm for dining environments that set him apart from the rest of the pack. In all, he was awarded 31 Michelin stars throughout his professional career.
While Robuchon was weaned in the fine art of cooking in a learning environment that allowed chefs to bully their students and assistants, and even used that dictatorial practice once he became dictator of the kitchens in restaurants he owned, he was far from a traditionalist when it came to his output. New recipes and a meticulous eye for presentation got the attention of powers that be to notice his talents.
While in his 30s, his first restaurant, Jamin, received its first star in startup year in 1982. The following year it got two, and then three the next, as well his operation's bestowal by the International Herald Tribune as being the best restaurant in the world.
By 1995 and just in his 50s, Robuchon called it quits and opted for a television career, hosting such shows in France as Cuisinez Comme Un Grand Chef and Bon Appétit Bien Sûr for nearly 15 years.
But Robuchon couldn't stay away from cuisine's competitive battlefronts, returning to the trade by opening L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon eateries in France and Tokyo. And while he consciously tried not to set his sights on getting more Michelin stars by stripping down the ornate veneer that used to be synonymous with world-class dining, Michelin's adjudicators still came knocking.
Even while breaking the rules that came with upper-crust hospitality, including the introduction of open kitchens to chucking out fancy linen tablecloths in favor of more stripped-down restaurants, Michelin's ratings gurus was taken by his more rustic direction that seemed to place more of a focus on the quality food he prepared, while creating an atmosphere so laid-back it enabled patrons to enjoy what on their plates even more.
By the time L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon expanded to such locales as Las Vegas, New York and Singapore, the establishment earned six more stars to the chef's reputation. And his revolutionary idea of altering restaurant interiors have since become the norm for the hospitality industry the world over.