Legendary chef Joel Robuchon, who mentored Gordon Ramsay, dies of cancer

Celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay, Eric Ripert and Andrew Zimmern have all paid tribute on social media.
by Alessandra Bulow / / Source: TODAY

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Legendary chef Joël Robuchon, who mentored Gordon Ramsay, Eric Ripert and many other celebrity chefs, has died at the age of 73 from cancer.

On Monday, his friends, colleagues and fans took to social media to pay tribute to the chef.

Throughout his career, Robuchon was awarded many of the top honors in the food world. When a restaurant is given just one star in a Michelin restaurant guide, it's a really, really big deal. Over his lifetime, Robuchon's combined restaurants earned 32 Michelin stars, making him the world's most Michelin-starred chef ever. He was also named "chef of the century" in 1989 by the French restaurant guide Gault & Millau. He leaves behind an empire with 26 restaurants, including 11 L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon restaurants, with locations throughout the world.

Ramsay, who worked for Robuchon at his first restaurant Jamin in Paris the 1980s, called his mentor "The God Father of Michelin."

The British TV host wrote about working under Robuchon in his autobiography "Humble Pie." Ramsay was the only person who Robuchon ever threw a plate at in his career, Robuchon told The Telegraph in 2013. "I remember it was a dish of langoustine ravioli," he said. Even though the two butted heads at times when they worked together, Ramsay had great admiration for Robuchon.

Robuchon was also a mentor to Eric Ripert, who remembered the "demanding" chef as the "King of all Chefs." Ripert wrote that he was "shocked and saddened" by the news of his death. It has been a difficult summer for Ripert, whose best friend, Anthony Bourdain, died by suicide on June 8 while the two were in France filming "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown."

In 2010, Ripert told TODAY Food that if he could only eat one dish made by another chef for the rest of his life, it would have been "an old signature dish from chef Joel Robuchon: braised pig head with mashed potatoes."

Robuchon's mashed potatoes, called pommes purée in French, became one of his most famous dishes thanks to their simplicity and accessibility. Made with just four ingredients — and a potato-to-butter ratio of 2-to-1 — his mashed potatoes are truly ethereal. Ripert told TODAY Food that they were "the most silky, smooth mashed potatoes you've ever had in your life."

Celebrity chefs Andrew Zimmern, David Chang, Simon Majumdar and José Andrés also paid tribute to Robuchon on Twitter.

Robuchon was one of the first chefs of his generation to build a true, global restaurant empire and influenced restaurateurs like Danny Meyer, the businessman behind Union Square Hospitality Group, who has created many fine dining restaurants, as well as the burger chain Shake Shack. Meyer also paid tribute to the chef.

In more recent years, Robuchon focused on discovering new ways to make vegetables the centerpiece of a meal and created inventive methods of cooking more healthfully with less butter, oil and additional fats.

He also worked with scientists to better understand the effect of food on the human body. "We the chefs have a responsibility to learn about the chemical makeup of food!" he told Food & Wine in 2011.

Robuchon's legacy lives on in the work of Ramsay, Ripert and the many other chefs he influenced throughout his celebrated career.

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