By Caroline Tapp-McDougall
French chef and restauranteur Joël Robuchon is often referred to as the Chef of the Century and, at 73, he continues to make his mark on the culinary world. With the most ever Michelin stars, 32 at last check, the iconic chef’s opening of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon at the Montreal Casino has been somewhat low key. Questions have been asked about the use of public money to fund the rumoured multi-million dollar price tag to “attract the celeb chef.” And then of course there’s the big question of why Robuchon is not a regular visitor at the Pierre-Yves Rochon designed establishment that bears his name.
Gossip aside, I’m a fan. Robuchon’s talent, even if it’s from afar, finally brings to Canada the unforgettable level of fine dining that his followers have been for years savouring in world-class cities such as New York, Hong Kong, Vegas, Singapore and Tokyo.
When I first met Robuchon and was his guest for dinner, he, and his translator, graciously spent a few unforgettably honest hours with me. It was post his retirement at age 50 over health concerns and during his triumphant return to the kitchen. Robuchon’s new lease on life came with a passionate interest in the healing power of natural ingredients and the effect his food could have on the health of guests such as, Celine Dion, a regular after her late-night show. It was the meal of a lifetime.
Now, here in Montreal, many a chef and restaurant review wiser, I fear that the old saying “there is no love like the first “might ring true. When only the best will do, can Robuchon’s hand-picked disciples at L’Atelier still impress? Mais oui. Sublime in its simplicity, Robuchon’s trademark relentless perfection is mouthwateringly present in every dish here at L’Atelier.