French celebrity chef Joël Robuchon has passed away at the age of 73, his spokeswoman confirmed to CNN Monday.
Robuchon owned and ran restaurants on three continents and was the world’s most Michelin-starred chef, according to his website and his spokeswoman.
Robuchon, who had been suffering with cancer, died in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday morning.
The chef owned restaurants in cities across the world including Paris, Monaco, Hong Kong, Las Vegas, Tokyo and Bangkok.
One of his best-known recipes was for mashed potatoes.
Benjamin Griveaux, a spokesman for the French government, said Robuchon would continue to “inspire the younger generation of chefs.”
In her book “L’Atelier of Joël Robuchon,” cook and author Patricia Wells said the Frenchman would “undoubtedly go down as the artist who most influenced the 20th century world of cuisine.”
She added: “To describe Joël Robuchon as a cook is a bit like calling Pablo Picasso a painter, Luciano Pavarotti a singer, Frederic Chopin a pianist.”
A meteoric rise to the top
Born in Poitiers, western France in 1945, Robuchon told CNN he first fell in love with cookery after entering a seminary, hoping to become a priest.
“But I often found myself helping the nuns in the kitchen and thus discovered my passion for cooking. I began to cultivate my skills and aspirations at the age of 15, when I embarked on my first apprenticeship at Relais de Poitiers [hotel],” he said in 2011.
Robuchon rose through the ranks at rapid speed, taking over as head chef at the Hotel Concorde La Fayette in Paris, at the age of 29.
In 1981 he opened Café Jamin in Paris, which earned a Michelin star in each of its first three years – the first restaurant to achieve such a feat.
Eight years later, Robuchon was awarded the “Chef of the Century” title by the prestigious restaurant guide Gault & Millau.
In 1994 he opened Restaurant Joël Robuchon in Paris, which the International Herald Tribune acclaimed that same year as the best restaurant in the world.
He eventually opened his own brand of restaurants across the world, taking his cuisine across the globe.
In June 2018, his company closed its two restaurants in Singapore, with five Michelin stars between them.
Speaking to Business Insider in 2014, Robuchon said: “The older I get, the more I realize the truth is: the simpler the food, the more exceptional it can be.
“I never try to marry more than three flavors in one dish. I like walking into a kitchen and knowing that the dishes are identifiable and the ingredients within them easy to detect.”
Hours after Robuchon’s death was announced, French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to the highly-decorated chef in a statement from the Elysee Palace.
“Joël Robuchon died today, but his 32 Michelin stars shine bright in the constellation of world gastronomy. His name and style embody French cuisine all over the world, they symbolize a lifestyle, a demand for a job well done, and convey the richness of our traditions,” the statement read.
It praised his attention to detail, ability to transform ingredients into mouthwatering dishes and his legacy.
“In Paris or Las Vegas, New York, London, Hong Kong, Bangkok or Shanghai, gourmets rushed to the chef’s many restaurants to taste his famous mashed potato puree, as well as his truffle tart and cauliflower cream with caviar or his langoustine ravioli,” the statement continued.
Robuchon was also known for his mentoring skills, helping to develop chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Éric Ripert and Michael Caines.
Writing on his Instagram page, Ramsay said: “We’ve Lost The God Father of Michelin the most decorated Chef in the World, he kept all of us on our toes ! Even when we were sleeping ! Merci Chef, God Bless.”
Michel Roux Jr., renowned Michelin-starred chef patron at Le Gavroche in London, wrote a simple tribute on Twitter, “I loved every mouthful of food cooked by this man, sad loss. RIP chef”
Television cook Nigella Lawson also paid tribute to Robuchon on Twitter, writing: “Thinking of Joel Robuchon, and his mashed potatoes.”
In a tweet, the official French Michelin Guide wrote: “He was one of the greatest French chefs. Joël Robuchon has passed away, he was 73 years old. The MICHELIN guide mourns with his loved ones.”
The culinary world has lost several high-profile names in recent months including chef, television host and author Anthony Bourdain in June, Pulitzer Prize-winning restaurant critic Jonathan Gold in July and Paul Bocuse, a renowned chef credited with transforming French cuisine in January.
CNN’s Saskya Vandoorne reported from Paris. James Masters wrote from London.