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We caught up with international super-chef Joël Robuchon over a Veuve Clicquot lunch at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Covent Garden to talk Michelin stars, his love of London and what he’s got coming up in 2014.
You have more Michelin stars than any other chef and currently have 25 of them. What’s the secret of your success at racking
I think regularity and consistency are the most important things. These are where a lot of very good restaurants can fall down. You never know when you are going to get inspected so you have to act like you are expecting an inspector to come in every single day. Of course, a restaurant should do this anyway as customers deserve to get the best possible experience whenever they come.
London’s L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon lost a Michelin star last year, demoted from two stars to one. What do you think was the reason for this?
The nature of how stars are awarded is that there will be an element of subjectivity, so it could be to do with different inspectors who have slightly different things they are looking for. Indeed, whenever I have visited and inspected the restaurant myself, there has been no issue with quality, though losing a star did concern me. I have a chef who has just gained two stars in New York and I have moved him and his team here to London. It will be very interesting to see what effect this has.
Has the loss of this star affected bookings at the restaurant?
No. In fact, I wonder how many of our diners actually know how many stars the restaurant has.
You have many one, two and three-Michelin-starred restaurants around the world, including a three-starred L’Atelier in Hong Kong, a two-starred L’Atelier in Paris and now a one-starred L’Atelier
in London. Is it easier to get stars in some cities over others?
It is hard to say, but I think there is a difference. In London, Michelin seems to be very focused on traditional, formal dining. I don’t think there are any two-or-three-star restaurants here which deviate too much from this. The approach is a little different if you go to America or to Japan, where more restaurants which stray away from traditional fine dining are starting to get stars. I think this will happen in London, too.
Of all the cities you have restaurants in, which has the best food scene?
London is the key place for me at the moment. In terms of trends this is where they are starting, and in terms of variety, London just can’t be beaten. I also really like the clientele here; consumers in London are much more open to different styles of cuisines than, for example, in Paris.
That’s good to hear. What restaurants in London are you particularly fond of?
I have been to Zuma a few times and the last experience I had there was of a very high level indeed. It’s an original concept and is very good at what it does.
And finally, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for you?
There will be several new L’Atelier restaurants opening. The first one will be in Bangkok, then Mumbai and also probably New York before the end of the year. I will also be opening a restaurant in a very prestigious location in Bordeaux.