French chef Joel Robuchon to be honoured at public ceremony

Paris (AFP) –


The multi-starred French chef Joel Robuchon, who died on Monday aged 73, will be honoured with a public ceremony next week near his hometown in central France, a spokeswoman for his family told AFP on Tuesday.

Accolades have poured in for Robuchon, a classically trained perfectionist whose revolutionary idea of stripping fine dining of its more elaborate trappings became a template for up-and-coming chefs around the world.

At one point he held a record 32 Michelin stars at the same time for his galaxy of Atelier ("workshop") restaurants, with people lining up for seats at establishments from Las Vegas to Tokyo.

While his funeral will be private, the public will be able to pay their respects at a ceremony in the Vienne region, where he was born in the city of Poitiers in 1945.

"His wife, his children Eric and Sophie, his grandchildren, along with the rest of his family ask that their privacy be respected," the statement said.

Robuchon, who was hailed as one of four "chefs of the century" by the Gault & Millau industry bible in 1990, announced his retirement a few years later, saying he wanted to slow down and enjoy his family after years of long days in the kitchen.

But it didn't last long, with his daily cooking shows on French television, a series of books and consulting work for food companies.

In the early 2000s he returned to the forefront of French dining with his Ateliers, a no-reservation concept where diners could watch chefs in action while perched on stools around a U-shaped bar.

Inspired by the sushi bars of Japan and the tapas of Spain, he bet that a new generation of food fans did not want the ultra-elegant linens and fancy silver of traditional starred restaurants -- and the sky-high prices that went with them.

Building on the success of his first Atelier in Paris in 2003, he expanded the restaurants around the globe, in particular Asia, where he had five establishments with seven stars between them in Tokyo alone.

Robuchon died of pancreatic cancer in Geneva, where he was planning to open his latest restaurant, his friend Gilles Pudlowski, a noted food critic, told AFP.

"Joel Robuchon has put his mark on French cuisine, by always taking his own course and his mix of freedom and rigour," fellow globetrotting chef Alain Ducasse told AFP.