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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Joël Robuchon, 'the chef of the century', dies

Por Jade

With the death of Chef Joël Robuchon this Monday at age 73, French gastronomy has suffered its second major blow in just a few months, after the death in January of the creator of the nouvelle cuisine Paul Bocuse. Barely recovered from the loss of the chef of chefs, France now cries to its century cook, the man who revolutionized the French haute cuisine and who achieved an absolute record of Michelin stars, 32, throughout his long career. A duel to which many chefs from all over the world have joined and, especially, from Spain, a country in which Robuchon found constant inspiration. The world gastronomy is again in mourning.

"He was a highly disciplined man, rigorous and rigid at work, that's why he had the aura of perfectionism, of dishes that were absolutely accurate and perfect," recalled Chef Pedro Subijana in a telephone conversation with El País. For the chef from San Sebastian, who had known him for decades, he was like a demanding teacher, the one who "after time is the one who loves the most, because he has made you better". Despite his illness, a pancreatic cancer that he had been facing for a year with great discretion until ending the battle on Monday at his home in Geneva, Switzerland, Robuchon remained active until almost until the end. For one of his last projects he had called the Spanish Carme Ruscalleda, with whom he planned an ephemeral restaurant during the summer at the Montecarlo hotel in the same city, where he had a restaurant in his name. The Catalan, the woman with more Michelin stars in the world, hailed the "international and immortal legacy" of a "great teacher and international artist" in her social networks. Spain was a constant reference of Robuchon, a chef obsessed with fresh products.

He chose Alicante as a destination when he decided to retire at age 50. Although, as Subijana recalled, the rest lasted very little: "After four days what he did was multiply by a thousand, because that takes you inside and it is very difficult to renounce it". They were two of his favorite Alicante establishments, the Nou Manolín and the Piripi, where he ate fresh fish at the bar, those that inspired him for one of his greatest successes, the concept of restaurants that he named L'Atelier and that are based on the format of the Spanish tapas and in the Japanese sushi bars, with the kitchen open to the view of the client. "When they asked me about a good restaurant, I realized that I knew places where people ate very well, but lacked a soul and others with very good atmosphere but terrible dishes. The only places where both were harmonized were sushi places in Japan and tapas in Spain," Robuchon said in an interview in 2015. "I copied the idea and put the kitchen in front so that the client could see how the dishes were made” Robuchon was "a very good ambassador of Spain abroad because he has always aired for the world that had been inspired by the Spanish bars", valued Subijana.

Born on April 7, 1945 in Poitiers, in a modest and deeply Catholic family, his first vocation was the Church. At age 12, he entered the seminary with the idea of ​​becoming a priest. The black would end up being one of his hallmarks-one of his revolutions was changing the white uniform of the chefs for a black one-but not the cassock, as his family had planned. Helping the nuns prepare the meals of the seminarians, he realized his true passion. At 15, he began an apprenticeship in the kitchens that in a few years allowed him to conquer the highest peaks of French and international gastronomy.

In 1976, he was named Meilleur Ouvrier de France, a title held only by some of the best chefs in France. A decade later, in 1987, he was crowned "chef of the year" and, in 1990, "chef of the century". With no less than 32 in its various restaurants, Robuchon was also the chef with the most Michelin stars in the world. His participation in some of the most popular cooking shows of French (and international) television also made him a recognized and beloved character in French homes. "Thanks for so many years of tireless work and love for cooking", he was crying in his networks the three Michelin stars and television chef Jordi Cruz.

French President Emmanuel Macron lamented the death of someone who "symbolized a way of life, the demand for work well done and the richness of traditions" of France. His chef at the Elysee and also one of the most renowned chefs in the country, Guillaume Gomez, recalled an "immense" and "rigorous" chef, the "greatest technician who has known French cuisine". Creator of delicate dishes such as truffle cake, cream of cauliflower in caviar or shrimp ravioli, paradoxically what gave him the most international fame was his mashed potato, an "icon of the 80s", according to Le Figaro, that The New York Times came to dedicate entire pages. "A madness", he laughed with El País decades later. During his last years of life, and with a pancreatic tumor identified years ago, the Frenchman began to bet on a healthier diet, without fats or sugars, in which he gave priority to vegetables and steamed cuisine. His discoveries were reflected in the book "Food and Life", published in 2014, together with Dr. Nadia Volf. According to the newspaper "Le Figaro", aware of his state of health, Robuchon was prepared in recent months to sell discreetly their establishments to an investment fund based in England and Luxembourg, committed by contract to maintain excellence for at least seven years. Now, it remains to be seen if the openings in which he was still working will soon see the light.