It has been a full year since L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon opened to modest fanfare in the Montreal Casino — and it turns out that the famed, multimillionnaire French chef hasn’t set foot on the premises since the restaurant’s inauguration.
This information comes via La Presse critic Marie-Claude Lortie, who spoke with the casino’s director general Marc Laporte, and L’Atelier’s executive chef, Éric Gonzales, for the restaurant’s first anniversary. For those who forgot, one of the most recent additions to Robuchon’s “chain” of luxury Atelier restaurants around the world was in Montreal’s casino — but given that casinos in Quebec are publicly-run, the decision to fund a foreign celebrity to a handsome sum of money proved rather controversial.
Given that Robuchon’s name is attached to 14 restaurants worldwide, the chef is obviously not likely to be present at any one of his restaurants for an extended period — yet Laporte confirmed to Lortie that since the opening (where Robuchon was present), he hasn’t returned. There’s also no requirement for Robuchon to be present (even for the most whirlwind of visits) at all, although it’s noted that Robuchon has sent associates to monitor the Montreal restaurant to ensure it meets his standards.
This poses an obvious riddle: if a Robuchon restaurant opens in a forest and no Robuchons are around to see it, is it actually a Joël Robuchon restaurant? Feel free to ponder that, but in the meantime, here are some other noteworthy nuggets Lortie extracted about the Robuchon restaurant:
- The Casino’s Marc Laporte says that the $11 million price tag for Robuchon’s restaurant is wrong — that number was first mentioned by finance minister Carlos Leitão, who oversees government corporation Loto-Québec, and by extension, its casinos. According to Laporte, “it’s much less”, although he declined to say how much. (Lortie dutifully wonders “how can we say if the project is profitable when we don’t know how much it cost?”
- Beyond the restaurant’s own revenues (for which no numbers are given), L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon apparently brought in $1.6 million extra for the casino, in the form of Atelier customers gambling and visiting the casino’s bars.
- 68 per cent of Atelier customers were drawn by Robuchon’s name, and 46 per cent of customers availed themselves of other entertainment at the Casino before or after their Atelier visit.
- Chef Gonzales says that L’Atelier’s use of Quebec products in Montreal has helped promote those producers to other Robuchon restaurants
Finally, and as with previous Robuchon revelations, Joe Beef co-owner Dave McMillan is not happy with any of this.