French chef and restaurateur Joël Robuchon was born on April 7, 1945. From humble beginnings as an apprentice pastry chef at age 15, he went on to win numerous accolades, including “Chef of the Century” by the restaurant guide Gault Millau and the Meilleur Ouvrier de France (France’s Best Craftsman) in cuisine. He has a network of twelve restaurants around the world, has hosted cooking shows, and published numerous cookbooks. His restaurants collectively have 26 Michelin stars, more than any other chef in the world.
His style is marked by authenticity, simplicity and perfectionism and a desire to highlight the flavor of each ingredient. Robuchon’s ethos makes me think of the simple Ratatouille like maman used to make that wowed the critic in the Pixar film of the same name. In fact, here’s Robuchon’s recipe for that classic French dish. The title of one of his cookbooks, Simply French, also recalls the fictitious chef Gusteau’s maxim that “Anyone can cook!” Several of his restaurants are named L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon; an atelier (at-el-e-ay) is a workroom, again stressing the idea of craftsmanship. Craftsmanship is such an integral part of his food that the restaurants are typically set up so that the kitchen area is visible to diners. He tried to retire at age 50 but came back after only a year. Now 67, he shows no sign of definitively taking off his toque.