Quebec’s culinary sphere continues to be upset about the decision to pump public money into Joël Robuchon’s restaurant at the Montreal Casino. A week and a half ago, it was suggested that Loto-Québec, the government corporation running the casino, spent around $11 million dollars on bringing Robuchon’s restaurant to Montreal. Loto-Québec has denied that sum, but Quebec’s finance minister Carlos Leitão (who oversees Loto-Québec) has not.
That denial is the only information Loto-Québec is offering about L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. On Sunday night, hit Radio-Canada talk show Tout Le Monde En Parle delved into the topic, inviting Montreal Gazette critic Lesley Chesterman, La Presse critic Marie-Claude Lortie and Joe Beef owner David McMillan onto the show. Chesterman and McMillan have been very critical of the restaurant. Lortie hasn’t been as vocal, but last week jumped into the debate with an op-ed suggesting Loto-Québec should be more accountable for spending public money on projects like the Robuchon restaurants.
Missing from the show? Anybody who thinks that spending $11 million on a restaurant is a good idea. Leitão, who loudly defended the Robuchon restaurant last week in Quebec’s parliament, was asked to appear on the show but refused, and so did Loto-Québec. Eater has reached out to both for an explanation and has not yet heard back from Leitão (fun fact: we weren’t even able to leave a message with Leitão’s press team). Loto-Québec did not offer an explanation for declining Radio-Canada’s invitation but did offer comments in support of the restaurant.
As a public broadcaster, Radio-Canada is fairly committed to including multiple points of view in such a debate — assuming they made an effort to find a pro-Robuchon voice, it would appear that either nobody wants to defend L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, or else public figures like Leitão are just staying really quiet and hoping the drama dies off.
That might be a good strategy, because without any dissenting voices, the TLMEP segment last night was a little bit of an echo chamber. Without Loto-Québec offering any details about the restaurant, it’s understandably hard for Chesterman and others to make new arguments.
Beyond the standard arguments that $11 million is too much to spend, and that a Quebec chef should be at the casino, here are the highlights of the segment, which can be watched on Radio-Canada (in French).
- Lortie, who gave L’Atelier a very positive review, has a few compliments to offer — that it’s very classic, technically perfect, and possibly a good resource for culinary students. That’s where the niceties end, though, as she says Loto-Québec is acting “like it’s a private company with private money, without having to answer to anybody”.
- Chesterman really, really hates the Quebec Liberals to the point where she would consider voting for the separatist Parti Québécois. She jokes that “as an anglophone, voting for the PQ is like sleeping with your cousin...now my cousin is looking handsome.”
- McMillan points out that it’s not even difficult to get a reservation at L’Atelier, saying that Montreal’s casino is part of the problem because people don’t want to go there: “Robuchon on Sherbrooke Street would be another thing.”
- Is Joe Beef Toronto going to happen? Maybe! “People ask ‘why don’t you open in Toronto or New York?’,” said McMillan. “Now we’re listening — if that’s going to be the attitude [in Quebec].”
- It all wraps up with the guests receiving Loto-Québec’s newest product — a (joke) scratch lottery ticket where you scratch off Michelin stars.
- La colère des chefs [Radio-Canada]
- Robuchon et les responsabilités de Loto-Québec [La Presse]
- Joël Robuchon's Montreal Restaurant Received $11 Million In Government Funds [EMTL]
- Quebec Politicians Keep On Bickering About Joël Robuchon’s Expensive Montreal Restaurant [EMTL]
- The First Review For Joël Robuchon’s Casino Restaurant Is In [EMTL]