Can L'Atelier and Le Jardinier Keep Joël Robuchon's Legacy Alive?

The wait for L'Atelier is almost over.
The wait for L'Atelier is almost over. L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
It's been a long time since the 2015 announcement that Miami's Design District would be graced with a Joël Robuchon restaurant. So long, in fact, the celebrated French chef has since passed away. 

However, four years after the announcement, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon will finally open in Miami August 28. Also, a new concept by Robuchon protégé Alain Verzeroli, Le Jardinier, will open August 16. The establishments, owned and operated by the New York-based Invest Hospitality, will be the first Robuchon restaurants to debut posthumously.

With the great chefs of our time aging, will their names live on in their restaurants the way fashion houses such as Chanel, Dior, and Yves Saint Laurent continue to function decades after the deaths of their founders?

Chef Christophe Bellanca says Robuchon's legacy must endure. As the culinary director for Joël Robuchon USA, including the L’Atelier brand in New York City and Miami, he is charged with carrying the chef's name forward. "Mr. Robuchon left us almost exactly one year ago. This is going to be the first restaurant after he passed, and the team and myself think about that every day. We need to respect Mr. Robuchon's legacy, and this is very important. We pay attention to every detail."

Bellanca says Robuchon approved of the Miami space and plans for the restaurant. "We were here with Mr. Robuchon for an event. We saw the space and spoke about what we wanted to do. We had a plan." For Bellanca, it was important to move forward with the restaurant even after the master chef's passing at the age of 73. "We believe Miami is a good city for us to be in."

The culinary director says L’Atelier will live on because it's more than just a restaurant. "For me, it's very simple. It's rare to create a concept, and Mr. Robuchon created the L’Atelier concept. He was a genius in the way he cooked and the way he thought." He says that with the opening of each location, the food progresses. "The more restaurants we open, the better they are. We opened New York two years ago, and the Miami restaurant is better. For me, it's a beautiful surprise. The kitchen and dining room are beautiful."

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, by the way, isn't considered fine dining, according to Bellanca. "It's not a tasting-menu restaurant — you can come here and have an appetizer and a glass of wine." The chef says regulars at the New York location come in three days a week for the restaurant's spaghetti with black truffles ($42). "It's a large portion, and people come in and share it, then get a dessert, for $18." He says he strives daily to prove that the restaurant isn't out of means for most people. "It is not too expensive. Look at the quality we give you for the price you pay."
click to enlarge Watermelon salad - LE JARDINIER
Watermelon salad
Le Jardinier
Also launching is the vegetable-forward concept Le Jardinier. Though not strictly vegetarian, the menu will offer a good number of vegetable dishes using local, seasonal produce, fresh herbs, and greens. Signature dishes will include bass with fennel, tomato confit, and Meyer lemon, and watermelon salad with heirloom tomatoes, ginger, and mint. Bellanca says the restaurant will use traditional French techniques to create modern takes on classic dishes. "I was very impressed with how Le Jardinier looked. I tried a couple of dishes, and wow!"

A third concept will open in September. Frohzen will offer ice-cream cupcakes, macaron ice-cream sandwiches, and ice-cream “cakesicles.” The shop will be located directly across from Le Jardinier on the ground floor of Paradise Plaza.

Part of the pleasure of eating at a celebrity chef's restaurant is the excitement of perhaps seeing them pass through the kitchen even though they're probably a continent away. Bellanca hopes Robuchon's spirit can be felt at the Miami locations. "When we open in Miami, we're going to listen to people and listen to how they feel about the menu. Mr. Robuchon was the best chef in the world, but he was very humble. When we come here, we will come here with humility and do the best job we can."

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Le Jardiner. 141 NE 41st St., Miami;
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss