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Montreal’s Controversial Joël Robuchon Restaurant Has Lost Its Top Chef

After less than two years in the job

Eric Gonzales (centre), at the time of L’Atelier’s Montreal opening
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon Montréal/Official

Eric Gonzalez, the executive chef at Montreal Casino restaurant L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, is out, after less than two years running the kitchen at the famed French chef’s local outpost.

Gonzalez, who arrived with experience at Auberge St-Gabriel and the Casino du Mont-Tremblant, was the opening chef for the restaurant. It’s unclear when exactly he departed the restaurant: in November 2018, Loto-Québec confirmed that Gonzalez had “take[n] a break for reasons unrelated to work”, with sous-chef Stéphane Galibert taking over.

The Loto-Québec statement implied that Gonzalez would return, and at the time, he was still featured prominently online as the face of the restaurant. At some point between then and February, his name was scrubbed from the website, with Galibert now listed as executive chef. An Eater tipster suggested that Gonzalez left to take a job with a local hotel, although this hasn’t been confirmed.

In a statement, Loto-Québec confirmed Gonzalez’ resignation.

[Gonzalez] has been deeply involved in the project and we are proud of all his work and dedication; the results speak for themselves. AJR is not only considered one of the best restaurants in Canada, but also one of the best Ateliers in the world. We respect his choice and wish him the best of success for the future.

Galibert also has experience at the Auberge St-Gabriel, as well as in Old Montreal’s Accords Bistro. He has also worked at notable restaurants at the Hôtel du Palais (in Biarritz, France) and Hôtel de la Chèvre d’Or (near Monaco). His former sous-chef role is now occupied by Carl Jobin.

The Robuchon casino restaurant caused controversy when it opened in 2016, due to the unconfirmed but presumably large volume of public funds used to open the restaurant (as part of a Quebec casino, it is run by Loto-Québec, a government corporation), as well as the failure to consider local chefs for such a well-financed project.

Gonzalez’ work drew glowing reviews from local critics (but not Lesley Chesterman) in the months after opening, although other iterations of the Atelier concept have been criticized as a “bland luxury chain”. The Montreal version is effectively a franchise, operated by Loto-Québec.

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