If you truly love food, Joël Robuchon is a man who likely needs no introduction. His restaurants span the globe, with locations in Paris, Monaco, Londres, Las Vegas, New York, Tokyo, Nagoya, Hong Kong, Macao and Taipei. In 1989, the prestigious French restaurant guide Gault Millau named Robuchon "Chef of the Century". He currently holds more Michelin Stars than any chef in the world.
Joël-Robuchon.com Joël Robuchon
On Tuesday night, Squid Ink had the pleasure of dining at his truly stunning 3 Michelin Star Las Vegas outpost, Restaurant Joël Robuchon, in the MGM Grand. The following morning, chef Robuchon and his translator took the time to sit down for an interview to discuss his passion for food, his career and perhaps most importantly, his desire to open a restaurant in Los Angeles.
Squid Ink: You're in town to oversee the seasonal menu change, is that right?
Joël Robuchon: Yes, four times a year, I visit Las Vegas for about a week or more in order to change the menu, experiment with new recipes and implement new dishes throughout the week. Currently we are working on the spring menu.
Changing the menu is something that might be normal today, but five years ago when we opened the restaurant, that was not the case. It would be the same year round. So when we opened, we said we would be changing the menu all the time. Now, you see that all the time, but five years ago, that wasn't the norm. When we did it, I was asked "why would you want to change the menu so often?" But it's simple. You have to follow the seasons.
Another thing that five years ago was a little bit different was when we were talking about opening a restaurant, was that I said I wanted to open a small restaurant. At the time, at most of the casinos, that was very unusual. There were not so many small restaurants. Five years ago, that was very different and unusual.
SI: Do you personally adjust the menu for all of your restaurants around the world?
JR: Yes. All of the restaurants. Of these kind, there are only three in the world. Here, Tokyo and Macau. I do travel to all the restaurants, but they are not all the same. I make creations that are unique to some of the locations. We also try as often as possible to use local ingredients, which are different in different parts of the world. Pretty much ten months out of the year is traveling. They are not all the same, but they do follow the season.
One thing, before opening, that I was a little worried about was sourcing the product. I'd heard from colleagues that I wouldn't be able to find quality products in the U.S. and in Las Vegas. So I sent chefs nine months before, to look at products, and they found some amazing vegetables, seafood and meat. Things from California were of great quality. I was told I would never be able to make good bread, that we could not find good flour. But now we have a baker here in the basement, and French people tell us that they find better bread here than they do in France. And without the produce, we would not be able to do that.
Veal, also. You have to look for it, but you can find some milk fed veal that is one the best that I have anywhere. Small farmer, small producer, they exist. You just need to find them.
SI: The veal was excellent.
JR: I had some in the kitchen last night. It was exceptional.
It is important that I find such good product to work with, because my cooking philosophy, what I try to do, is to make a cuisine where the produce and the product shines, compared to some current trends that are maybe more adding additional things, like molecular cuisine, with a lot of additives and chemicals, which are now showing that they could be bad for your health. My philosophy is very different from that. An ingredient, prepared simply, is the best.
I have been working to use more products that are proven to be good for your own health. No additives, but also ones that are known to be good for your health.
For example, turmeric, has been known to be very good for you. Thyme honey is another. It is known in medicine that honey can actually be good to heal wounds. There is actually a hospital in Paris that kind of specializes in that. If there are wounds that have a hard time healing, they put thyme honey on it.
Rosemary and white tea also. People talk about the benefits of green tea, but also white tea. So I have been incorporating those ingredients into some recipes. Like a gelée that is made with white tea. And sea urchin and turmeric, which is to flavor the carrot. It is really what my cuisine is moving toward. Cuisine of the produce, but you must have exceptional ingredients.
SI: You spoke before about the excellent produce of California, so I must ask-- would you ever consider opening a restaurant in Los Angeles?
JR: Los Angeles is somewhere that I am extremely interested in. If there is one city in the world that I would like to be, it is Los Angeles. What I am really looking for and waiting for is a good space. I am really looking for the right space, the right location. And waiting to find the location and the right partner for a L'Atelier space. So I am opening the door to interested parties, for anybody out there reading this.
Originally, I only knew Los Angeles for LAX, on the way to Las Vegas. But about a year and a half, two years ago, I was in town for an event [with Wolfgang Puck]. But it is new to me and I really fell in love with the city. Los Angeles is a magical city. Malibu and Beverly Hills especially. I really fell in love with the city.
There are actually three things that motive me to do a restaurant there. First of all, I enjoy the city. Also, I know I will be able to find the produce. And the third, I know that Los Angeles has great potential. We see a lot here in Las Vegas, a huge clientele from Los Angeles, and a huge repeat clientele. I know the potential is there, the clientele is there. There are people that know of my restaurants there. I know L'Atelier would do great.