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Legendary French chef Joel Robuchon dies at 73, spokeswoman says

07 August 2018

Joel Robuchon, a master chef who shook up the stuffy world of French haute cuisine by showing diners the delights of the simple mashed potato and a peek at a restaurant kitchen, has died at 73.

A spokeswoman for Robuchon confirmed his death, with French TV station BFM and newspaper Le Figaro reporting that he died in Geneva on Monday from cancer.

Less than a decade later, in 1989, he was named "Chef of the Century" by Michelin's rival restaurant guide, Gault Millau.

He leaves behind a legacy not only in his restaurants - there are now 12 branches of L'Atelier, including in London, Tokyo, Las Vegas and Beijing - but also in the cooking school he created near the town where he was born.

"To describe Joel Robuchon as a cook is a bit like calling Pablo Picasso a painter, Luciano Pavarotti a singer, Frederic Chopin a pianist", Patricia Wells wrote in L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon.

Joel Robuchon, who has a seismic influence on French food turning it from stuffy to fun and accessible, is dead.

Robuchon was renowned for his perfectionism and for using few ingredients, keeping preparation simple and moving away from the excesses of French nouvelle cuisine - a healthier form of cooking.

He started out with small restaurants where diners would sit at a counter surrounding the kitchen. It did not take reservations and it did not have tables (for the most part).

Robuchon was also one of the first chefs to hone a high-end kitchen's focus to only a pair, triplet, or quartet of ingredients on each plate, and he presented that ambition on a global scale. About a year ago it was announced that Robuchon, alongside fellow Frenchman Jean-Georges Vongerichten and local hero Brad Kilgore, would open restaurants in the über-luxury shopping district.

'These mashed potatoes, it's true, made my reputation.

'You have to know when it's time to quit, ' the chef told The Associated Press at the time.

"I never try to marry more than three flavours in one dish". "Maybe it's a little bit of nostalgia, Proust's madeleines".

Robuchon also stood at the precipice of an age in which social media gave chefs greater reach and impact than ever before, and expanded their followers beyond just the unpaid stagiaires who make their restaurants run.

Watch a YouTube chef's take on Robuchon's classic mashed potato recipe below. Cooking is tough. It's like being an athlete who has to stay really fit'.

He added: "Every time I make mashed potato, I can't help thinking of him".

But in 2003, Mr. Robuchon came out of retirement to create the Atelier, first in Paris and Tokyo and later to cities all over Asia, Europe and the United States. From there, he brought them to cities all over Asia, Europe and the USA, and the Michelin stars followed fast and furious.

Robuchon's impact on food was so enormous, he was called "cook of the century" back in 1990.

The establishment, not far from the French presidential palace, was opened in collaboration with Dassai sake producer Hiroshi Sakurai. DiLorenzo is now based in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Legendary French chef Joel Robuchon dies at 73, spokeswoman says