Chef Joel Robuchon: Chef of the Century Redefines French Cuisine - Culinary Ed

Joel Robuchon

May 19th, 2011

Classic French cuisine--straight from the kitchens of the educated, working-class bourgeoisie--is known around the world for its complex mix of flavors and heavy sauces. In the 1960s, nouvelle cuisine changed all that. It was up to Chef Joël Robuchon--known to culinary students as the "Chef of the Century"--to rescue classic French cooking while embracing the simplicity of nouvelle cuisine.

Getting to Know Chef Robuchon

The New York Times bio for Joël Robuchon starts off this way: "Long praised for the way in which he intensifies the essence of a dish--he often pays more attention to accentuating two or three flavors than creating unusual combinations--Joël Robuchon has for a quarter century been on the short list of renowned chefs."

That's putting it mildly. At age 28, Robuchon received the prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Outstanding French Craftsman) award and three years later received the award again. In 1984, he was the youngest chef ever to own a three-star restaurant. In 1990, the influential French restaurant guide Gault Millau named 44-year-old Robuchon the "Chef of the Century," and in 2006 Bon Appetit named him "Chef of the Year." Robuchon is a permanent member of the Acadëmie Culinaire de France and owns 19 restaurants worldwide, most of them Michelin-starred.

Redefining French Cuisine

Robuchon used his relentless drive for perfection to reinvigorate French cuisine. Classic French cooking had been rich and heavy; then, in the 1960s, nouvelle cuisine began emphasizing the taste of individual ingredients but also leaned toward minuscule, over-designed presentations. Robuchon combined the best of both styles to create fresh, simple, satisfying food. says, "Not for him the flash and dash of bitey flavors and food done up to resemble something it isn't. Robuchon is all about making it look and feel natural, turning simple food into something luxurious."

"Turning simple food into something luxurious"--that's the burning desire of culinary students around the world." Chef of the Century" Joël Robuchon, still going strong at age 63, shows how it's done.

Fleury Michon Groupe
Joël Robuchon
New York Times

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