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Joël Robuchon’s Montreal Restaurant Opens With Very Expensive, Publicly Funded Cutlery [Updated]

Flush those public dollars down, down, down

Executive chef Eric Gonzales (centre), Joël Robuchon (to Gonzales’ left) and team at Robuchon’s Casino de Montreal restaurant.
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon Montréal

The media are abuzz and the bloggers are fawning, as the long-awaited Montreal edition of celebrity French chef and multi-millionnaire Joël Robuchon serves its first plates to the public tonight at the Montreal Casino.

As the Montreal Gazette reports, the menu at L’Atelier Joël Robuchon Montréal is staying secret right up until tonight’s opening, but it’ll be small plates, and a meal with wine pairing should hit somewhere in the realm of $250 per person. That’s based on the prices at Robuchon’s other nine Ateliers around the world, most of which have received Michelin stars.

Despite the restaurant not yet being open, some have already thrown reviews at it via Facebook, and mysteriously, L’Atelier’s social media team are only bothered by the one-star reviews, not the copious five-star ones.

Courtesy of an Air France promotion (for whom Robuchon has designed in-flight menus) allowing people to order a Robuchon meal via delivery website Foodora, one of the restaurant’s possible plates is known — osetra caviar on aniseed-infused coral gelée. (The Air France promotion also offers a duck confit parmentier, and a mango “smoothness” on cranberries and rosé champagne, but those aren’t going to be at L’Atelier).

Just one version of Robuchon’s duck parmentier
Whitney Filloon

Robuchon’s restaurant is expensive for diners, sure, but it’s also expensive for the province of Quebec’s public purse. Casinos in Quebec are public property, run by government gambling agency Loto-Québec, who also fund and run on-site restaurants at casinos. So while Loto-Québec’s funding comes from gambling and the like, it is ultimately public money, just like the revenues of Quebec’s liquor corporation, the SAQ.

And Loto-Québec has spared no expense — advertising costs aside, Eater’s sources have suggested that the pricetag for Bernadaud plates for the 57-seat restaurant was around $40,000 (and Bernadaud’s website says it doesn’t even deliver to Canada), and another $40,000 on Christofle cutlery. For comparison, Eater quizzed a handful of high-end restaurateurs in Montreal on their tableware costs, which ranged from below $10,000 for all crockery and silverware at a similar-sized restaurant, through to $35,000 for everything at the very upper end of the scale — less than half of the $80,000 here.

Eater also hears that the kitchen alone, headed up by executive chef Eric Gonzales, cost around $1.5 million in construction costs, including a $50,000-or-so rotisserie.

Since L’Atelier was announced, it and Loto-Québec have faced criticism that such a major project using public money should at least promote the local culinary scene, something which Montreal Gazette critic Lesley Chesterman has been particularly vocal about.

Robuchon, who the Gazette reports was approached by Loto-Québec for the project, has no previous ties to Montreal, even admitting he had little knowledge of the city’s food scene. He has said, however, that Montrealers are very nice, and that he thinks Quebec has great cheese.

He has been floating around in recent days for the restaurant’s opening, and has been spotted mixing it with local chefs like Jérôme Ferrer at restaurants including Europea, or posing in the vicinity of Nespresso machines at yesterday’s Gault & Millau awards in Quebec City.

Critics can take heart, though: at least the art on the restaurant’s walls is from Quebec.

UPDATE — Loto-Québec spokesperson Marilyne Desrochers has responded to Eater’s article. In an email, Desrochers writes that Robuchon’s reputation could be a boon. “We would like to pinpoint that Mr. Robuchon’s international reputation only adds to Montreal’s clout in the culinary world across the globe.”

Desrochers goes on to add that all Atelier staff are from Montreal and surrounds. “This is the only Atelier in the world where the complete staff (director, executive chef, cooks, servers, maître d’, pastry chef, etc.) is local! And note that 70% of the products come from local producers who will benefit from the Robuchon’s reputation.”

STATUS — L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon opens tonight (December 7) on Level A of the Casino de Montréal (Pavillon du Québec) at 1 Avenue du Casino. Open seven nights.

Casino de Montréal

1 ave. du Casino, Montreal, QC H3C 4W7 (514) 392-2709 Visit Website