Chicken soup gives Joel Robuchon energy to rock and roll

Chef Joel Robuchon says a bouillon or broth of chicken gives him energy to rock and roll

Joel Robuchon says it is important to create and balance tradition while keeping up with the changing times. He has launched a new cookbook. -- ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Joel Robuchon says it is important to create and balance tradition while keeping up with the changing times. He has launched a new cookbook. -- ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

French celebrity chef Joel Robuchon, who has more than 25 Michelin stars to his name, says his culinary direction is moving along the lines of innovation, modernity and tradition.

While it is important to create and be inspired, balancing tradition and keeping abreast of the changing times is key, he says.

The chef runs about 20 restaurants around the world, including two Singapore outposts - gastronomic restaurant Joel Robuchon and the more edgy counter-dining restaurant L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, both located at Resorts World Sentosa. His empire spans Las Vegas to Tokyo.

"The difficulty is trying to achieve all three things at the same time," says Robuchon in French. His translator is chef Philippe Braun, who has been working with him since 1986 and is now his right-hand man.

He adds: "Nowadays, customers want to have traditional flavours and traditional products, but with a touch of creativity."

The 69-year-old chef has seen trends come and go.

These include the rise of molecular gastronomy and the corresponding scientific culinary techniques that involve the use of chemicals, he says.

He, like many other top chefs, embraced molecular gastronomy during the height of its popularity more than a decade ago. However, he quickly decided that it was not for him. Scientists and doctors had warned that it was not healthy and sometimes dangerous, he says.

But one trend he is looking to resurrect is that of showcasing culinary skills in the dining room and finishing food in front of the diner, something popular in restaurants several decades ago but which has all but disappeared.

While he is tight-lipped about how he is re-introducing this concept, including at his eponymous fine-dining restaurant here, he says it will include skills such as slicing meats in front of diners. It is in the midst of being rolled out.

Aside from checking on the operations of his restaurants here and introducing new menu items, the chef, who was in town recently, also launched a new cookbook titled Food & Life.

The book, which he co-authors with Russia-born Paris-based medical doctor Nadia Volf, who is also an acupuncturist and neuropharmacologist, focuses on nourishing and healing recipes for the home cook. It took a year to complete.

For instance, the secret to his stamina is a bouillon or broth of chicken with ginger, celery, garlic, turmeric, shiitake mushroom and black pepper. He says it gives him the energy to "rock and roll".

Ask him if at 69 whether he has plans to slow down and he laughs.

"Excuse me, do I look tired to you?" he says with a cheeky smile. The Paris- based chef's eyes still twinkle as he talks animatedly about his passion for cooking and his profession.

In fact, he is still busy expanding.

He opened a gastronomic restaurant in Bordeaux last week and heads to Bangkok this week to open a L'Atelier there. Next year, he will open offshoots of L'Atelier in New York and Shanghai.

He says he has not had a day off in the last 21/2 months and has been flying to Monaco, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Macau and Bangkok. He was last in Singapore for the Grand Prix races.

He catches up on sleep and takes time to create new dishes while on planes so that he can hit the ground running, he says.

On expansion, he says: "I have no specific number of restaurants in mind, that is not important to me, but there will not be many more restaurants - this is about the maximum that I can handle."

He decided to open more outposts in Asia because of his existing network of restaurants and access to quality ingredients. Currently, his Asian empire includes restaurants in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore.

"It is great to open all over the world and expand into new cities because you grow and are exposed to new cultures," he adds.

Follow Rebecca Lynne Tan on Twitter @STrebeccatan

Food & Life ($80.85) is available at

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.