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French chef Joel Robuchon dies at 73

The chef, who earned more Michelin stars than any other, operated restaurants on several continents.
Stéfan Le Dû CC BY-SA 2.0

Joel Robuchon, the French chef who elevated mashed potatoes to a near-religious experience and earned more Michelin stars than any other, died Monday at the age of 73.

Robuchon died at his home in Geneva, Switzerland, after a lengthy treatment for cancer, according to his spokeswoman.

Joel Robuchon by Ohconfucius CC BY 2.5

Robuchon’s nearly six-decade career included more than 20 restaurant concepts across several continents and a lifetime total of 31 Michelin stars, according to a remembrance from the prestigious guidebook. His 26 current restaurants are in 10 cities and currently have 24 stars, according to Michelin.

The chef was known for making the most of minimal ingredients and simple, rustic flavors.

"I never try to marry more than three flavors in one dish,” he told an interviewer several years ago. “I like walking into a kitchen and knowing that the dishes are identifiable and the ingredients within them easy to detect."

Robuchon was one of the earliest chefs to embrace the now-popular fine-casual model. His “atelier” format differentiated from other fine-dining establishments, with small-footprint restaurants, often without tables, where diners sit around the kitchen counter for an intimate experience.

His signature dish was ultra-indulgent mashed potatoes, made with one part butter to two parts potatoes.

“These mashed potatoes, it’s true, made my reputation,” he once said. “I owe everything to these mashed potatoes. Maybe it’s a little bit of nostalgia, Proust’s madeleines. Everyone has in his memory the mashed potatoes of his mother, the mashed potatoes of his grandmother.”

Robuchon was born in 1945 in Poitiers, in west-central France. By the age of 29, he was leading a staff of 90 at the Hotel Concorde La Fayette in Paris. He would earn several Michelin stars for Jamin, his first restaurant. In 2003, he began opening his atelier concept, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, in multiple cities across Asia, Europe and the U.S.

Just this year, Robuchon opened Dassai in Paris, which features a sake bar and a tea and cakes salon. In the U.S., Robuchon has restaurants in Las Vegas and New York City.

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