Master chef Joël Robuchon opened his new venture, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, in the Hôtel Pont Royal on May 7. Seven years ago Robuchon, who had been named Cuisinier du Siècle, Chef of the Century, retired at the peak of his career. He claimed that it was a daily challenge to stay at the top of his art. Alain Ducasse took over his restaurant in Avenue Raymond Poincarré, later moving on to the Hôtel Plaza Athénée. Since 1995, Robuchon has been a consultant for French food company Fleury Michon and the restaurant Taillevent Robuchon in Tokyo, and has been involved with some French televison shows. Ambassador of the French cuisine in Japan, he has a 10-year contract with Sony to develop his savoir-faire.
It was actually in Japan that Robuchon came up with the concept of his new restaurant, located in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Présa few steps away from the Musée d'Orsay and the Musée du Louvre. Once known as Paris's literary hotel, the Hôtel Pont Royal was a favorite haunt for authors such as Arthur Miller, T.S. Elliot, Truman Capote, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Gabriel Garcia Marques, to name just a few.
Robuchon thinks that the Japanese are very sensitive to the ambience in a restaurant, especially those of sushi restaurants. He believes that the sushi chef not only possesses culinary talent, but also has a talent for listening to his customers, adapting his work to their appetite-which changes by the minute. In the Hôtel Pont Royal Robuchon wants to recreate the same atmosphere. The restaurant is laid out around a central kitchen, where 40 guests are able to savor the preparations done in front of them. Robuchon has teamed up with Philippe Braun, formerly of the restaurant Laurent, and a few other Parisian chefs.
The culinary concept of L'Atelier, translating literally to "the workshop," is to use the best produce and prepare it the simplest way possible, live in front of diners not as simple as it might sound. The cuisine is French and from time to time, Robuchon will prepare some of the dishes that made him a celebrity (such as truffle pie, potato purée, foie gras soup). His appearances will also be from time to time. The other good news is that Robuchon's goal for the menu is chic but not expensive: €50 is the average bill. Grands crus are offered at cost price, and also by the glass. Reservations are only accepted one hour prior to arrival, in order to give more people access to the restaurant.
Joël Robuchon has marked his generation with his unlimited talent. We tend to think that for the year to come, he will bring a revolution in the restaurant world with his concept.
Want to try a few of Robuchon's recipes? His book, L'Atelier of Joël Robuchon: The Artistry of a Master Chef and His Proteges, is based on teamwork, as is his new restaurant, and one can share his knowledge through its pages.
Check out the 2015 edition of GAYOT's Annual Restaurant Issue, which features the Top 40 Restaurants in the US and more.