World’s most starred French chef seeks more

The world's most decorated chef, Frenchman Joel Robuchon might be heading towards his seventieth birthday but he has no intention to lay down his apron. He wants another three Michelin stars to add to his record tally of 28.

World's most starred French chef seeks more
French cook Joel Robuchon poses on December 6, 2014 in Bordeaux, southwestern France, in the kitchen of 'La Grande maison". Photo: Nicolas Tucat/AFP

At 69 retirement is out of the question for celebrated French chef Joel Robuchon. Far from slowing down, the most starred chef in the world has just opened a new restaurant with the objective of winning yet another three Michelin stars to add to his tally of 28.

At a time when many are opting to put their feet up and enjoy the fruits of their success, Robuchon has teamed up with wine magnate Bernard Magrez to open his latest eaterie and hotel, La Grande Maison, in a 19th century Bordeaux mansion.

And the pair are aiming high with the declared objective of securing three Michelin stars, the coveted mark of the world's top restaurants.

Both self-made men, Robuchon and Magrez hit it off immediately after meeting through a friend, they told AFP.

For Magrez there was an immediate "spark of mutual respect", while Robuchon realised that they each instinctively understood the other.

The son of a mason and a housewife from the western region of Poitou, Robuchon opted for a culinary life after turning his back on his original vocation — the church.

The young Robuchon discovered his love of cooking while helping out in the kitchen at his seminary.

In 1960 at the age of 15 he left and took up an apprenticeship at the Relais de Poitiers hotel, starting as a pastry chef.

Awarded his first Michelin star in 1982, he achieved his first three stars accolade only two years later.

Today he boasts 28 stars spread across restaurants worldwide from Tokyo to Las Vegas, including three with three stars.

'French hospitality'

Magrez made his fortune by founding the William Pitters spirits company and the low-cost Bordeaux wine brand Malesan. He is also a passionate patron of the arts.

His flagship Bordeaux wine is Chateau Pape Clement but he also owns other wine estates both in Bordeaux and elsewhere in France, as well as in countries including the US, Spain, Japan and Morocco.

"Cooking is a great tradition of art, the art of French hospitality," he said.

For Robuchon, "the idea of Bordeaux is linked to huge potential, with duck foie gras, Porcini mushrooms, lamb oysters and of course wine".

For his latest project, he promises a cuisine characterised by "innovation, modernity but also tradition with classic French dishes".

For the opening this week of La Grande Maison, diners enjoyed a "meal of four courses with a main course of beef Rossini and duck foie gras".

His signature dishes also make an appearance on the menu with specialities including "tarte friande" with truffles and confit of onions with bacon.

To help him rise to the challenge, Robuchon brought in Japanese chef Tomonori Danzaki — his long-time collaborator and chef at one of his Vegas restaurants.

The new restaurant, meanwhile, which will be managed by Jean-Paul Unzueta, who has come from starred restaurants owned by Robuchon in Monaco.

In addition to the 40-seater restaurant, there will also be a bar bistro, L'Olivier, and six hotel rooms.

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Reader question: Why can’t I find any mustard in France?

Limits on purchases are being imposed in some stores due to a global shortage of mustard grains.

Reader question: Why can't I find any mustard in France?

Question: I haven’t been able to buy mustard for weeks, all the local supermarkets seem to have sold out, is there a shortage?

After recent limits on purchases of cooking oil caused by unnecessary panic-buying, now another staple of French cuisine is hard to come by – mustard.

The reason appears to be a ‘perfect storm’ of events in the world’s three largest mustard-producing countries; Canada, Russia and France.

Canada, the world’s largest mustard producer which provides 80 percent of the seeds that France imports, was hit by an “extreme heat dome” in July 2021, that halved the harvest, prompting the country to limit exports, Michel Liardet, president of Européenne de condiments, a company that specialises in the manufacture and packaging of mustard, told Le Point.

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The world’s second largest producer, Russia, has had embargoes imposed on exports following its invasion of Ukraine.

As a result, grain prices increased fivefold between April 2021 and April 2022, while the price of packaged mustard has risen by nine percent over the same period, according to the market research institute IRI.

The mustard shortage has prompted Liardet to call for an increase in French production “in order to be less dependent on imports”.

However, harvests in France have declined in recent years, in part because of a ban on the spraying of pesticides on seeds.

It has lead to empty shelves in some supermarkets, while others have imposed limits on mustard-buying.