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Chef Joel Robuchon Interview

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Chef Joel Robuchon is one of the world's most celebrated chefs. Born in Poitiers, France, Chef Robuchon currently oversees restaurants in Paris, London, Tokyo, Macau, Las Vegas, New York City, Hong Kong, and Monaco.

His incredibly intricate Japanese-inspired French cuisine is among the most luxurious and innovative restaurant food you can buy anywhere on earth. Although he spends much of the year travelling, he lives in a small town on the east coast of Spain between the cities of Valencia and Alicante. Despite running eight of them himself, Chef Robuchon insists that he rarely eats at restaurants.

Chef Robuchon on Food Trends

What are some emerging food trends that you're noticing?

They're based on the ingredients themselves and on detailed, careful preparation of the food, rather than covering the flavor with heavy sauces. The simpler the food, the harder it is to prepare it well. You want to truly taste what it is you're eating. So that goes back to the trend of fine ingredients. It's very Japanese: Preparing good ingredients very simply, without distractions from the flavor of the ingredient itself.

What's an emerging ingredient that you're using a lot of these days?

It's in keeping with my Japanese-inspired French cuisine, and it's fresh wasabi. Fresh, as opposed to what you normally see, which is wasabi reconstituted from a powder that tastes nothing like wasabi. It's a root similar to horseradish. I grate it into a paste and use it for flavoring.

You know, there's an attraction to Japanese cuisine that is really growing. Sushi is taking over the world; it's like pizza, you can get it everywhere. People are drawn to this simple cuisine. Plus, it's healthy, and healthier food is a trend that's been going on for a while.

What would you cook at home in Spain if you were just making a laid-back dinner?

I make very simple dishes. A small guinea fowl (pintade) with potatoes, all cooked in the same pan so the potatoes soak up the juices from the guinea fowl. Maybe a chicken cooked with endive, roasted.

Vegas' Restaurant Scene

What's the difference between running a restaurant in a casino city like Macau or Vegas, and running one in London or New York?

In Macau or Las Vegas, it's the potential for international customers with much more diverse interests, so I learn a lot more. There's just a much wider variety of people that come in — different cultural groups with different interests. I can be much more creative with my menus in the casino cities. In New York, there are certain things I can't make. In Las Vegas, they're much more receptive. Rabbit, some seafoods — they won't necessarily do well in New York, but I'll try them in Las Vegas and they'll be a success.


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Gordon Ramsay

What do you think about chefs like Gordon Ramsay, who have taken haute cuisine to the masses via reality TV? Do you think it kills some of the magic of the kitchen to have it so exposed?

I think it's educational, above all. It's a very good thing. I used to have my own show in France. People learn from this stuff. The knowledge doesn't have to stay in the kitchen.

Tips for Young Chefs

What do you think the most important qualities are in a young chef?

First of all, you have to like people. When new cooks come to work for me, they obviously make mistakes at the beginning or there's some messiness to the presentation. What I always say to them is: "If you were cooking this for your mother or your girlfriend, would you make those mistakes?" You would make sure it was absolutely perfect because you love them. This is how I see every client who comes to my restaurants. You really have to love people. You also have to respect the produce, the food.

Secondly, you have to be clean. Very, very clean. When I used to have a show on French TV, people would ask me how my jacket stayed spotless while cooking. Your whole area has to be clean — and you have to keep it that way.

What's the one cooking tool that a guy should not be without?

I know it's expensive, but I absolutely think an induction stove. It's much better than gas or electric; you can get whatever you're cooking to as low or high a temperature as you want to a very specific level. But there's no substitute for this.

If you have kids around, it's the safest way. There's no flame, and with electric stoves, even those flat-topped ones, the surfaces stays very hot for a while after it's been turned off, and kids can burn themselves. An induction stove cools down immediately.

Chef Robuchon's Next Move

What's next for you?

I have a new restaurant opening in Taipei, my first in Taiwan. I'm open to starting restaurants anywhere as long as the produce that's readily available is high quality. For example, I'm never doing a restaurant in Shanghai because I saw the produce available there, and it's just not good. I won't do a restaurant in Moscow for the same reason.