Joël Robuchon was the original bad boy of culinary world

Kristine Tarbert
Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer

The culinary world is reeling from the death of chef Joël Robuchon, who at one point had earned more than 30 Michelin stars across nearly two dozen restaurants on three continents.

Considered the original bad boy in the kitchen, Joël mentored Gordon Ramsay, who has paid tribute to the ‘God Father of Michelin’ in a post on Twitter.

“We’ve Lost The God Father of Michelin the most decorated Chef in the World, he kept all of us on our toes! Even when we were sleeping! Merci Chef, God Bless you’ll be missed,” Gordon posted.

While Gordon is famous for his hot-headed personality in the kitchen, it turns out that Joël actually gave him a run for his money, even once throwing a plate at the British chef.

In his biography, Humble Pie, Gordon Ramsay wrote about the time he spent working for the chef in Paris. In it he said it was like working for the SAS, and that compared with Joël, the famously combustible Marco Pierre White was a “f***ing pussycat”.

In an interview with The Telegraph in 2013, Joël admitted that he couldn’t stand when things were not done properly and recalled the moment he threw a plate at Gordon.

“I remember it was a dish of langoustine ravioli. He hadn’t made it properly,” he told the publication. “I told him so and Gordon reacted in a very arrogant manner.

Photo: Getty

“At the end of every service, he used to fling his pan down on the stove and threaten to resign because I was so demanding. This time, it really got on my nerves and so I threw a plate at him.

“Ah… This time he took his apron off and walked out. But that is the only time I’ve ever thrown a plate at anyone.”

Joël Robuchon’s humble beginnings

Born in Poitiers, western France, in 1945, Joël studied at a seminary from a young age and considered becoming a priest. But hours spent cooking with the nuns convinced him he had another calling.

He rose quickly through apprenticeships, learning techniques from around the country, before taking over as head chef of what was then the Hotel Concorde La Fayette in Paris at the age of 29.

He came into his own in the 1980s and early 1990s, when gourmet food went global and was named the ‘chef of the century’ by the Gault et Millau cooking guide in 1990.

The son of a builder, his brand eventually became a business in itself and he opened restaurants in Las Vegas, Shanghai, Bangkok, Macau, Tokyo and New York.

It was confirmed Joël died on Monday at his home in Geneva aged 73, from cancer.

Photo: Getty
Tributes flow

Fellow chefs have paid tribute to ‘visionary’ Joël.

Patricia Wells, a cook and food writer, wrote in her book L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, “Joël Robuchon will undoubtedly go down as the artist who most influenced the 20th-century world of cuisine.”

“He was someone I love, formidable, extraordinary,” French chef Marc Veyrat told RTL radio. “I’m not afraid to say he inspired me.”

The chef of the Elysee presidential palace, Guillaume Gomez, also tweeted that Joël was “the greatest technician French cuisine ever had. An example for generations of chefs.”

Even French President Emmanuel Macron has paid homage to Joël Robuchon, saying the late French chef’s “32 Michelin stars shine bright in the constellation of French gastronomy.”

Macron said in a statement that Robuchon’s “name and style embody French cuisine all over the world…and project the richness of our traditions.”

Photo: Getty

Joël reached a total of 32 Michelin stars in 2016 – a record – and still held 31 stars this year, including five three-star restaurants.

He was always regarded as a perfectionist, and surprisingly most famous for his simple mash potato.

“The older I get, the more I realise the truth is: the simpler the food, the more exceptional it can be,” Joël told Business Insider in an interview in 2014.

“I never try to marry more than three flavours in one dish. I like walking into a kitchen and knowing that the dishes are identifiable and the ingredients within them easy to detect.”

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