For Joël Robuchon, Food And Religion Went Hand In Hand

Food plays an important role in religion, in the form of meals shared together and as symbolic items used in ceremonies. For some, even cooking and enjoying food feels religious, such as actor Stanley Tucci who told NPR that while he is not religious, if there would be one thing that he would consider holy, it would be food because of how it connects him with other people and the way in which he enjoys it.

Like Tucci, acclaimed chef Joël Robuchon recalls how food was an important part of his upbringing and how his family held it in reverence. Food (and sometimes a lack of it) was an important part of Robuchon's childhood in France. He was born in 1945 in west-central France, right after World War II, when there were still food shortages, he told the Michelin Guide in 2018. Items that we take for granted today, like a loaf of bread, were treasured items for Robuchon's and other's families. It was that loaf of bread from the local bakery that Robuchon's mother would share with the family as a Christian with a thankful heart.

Breaking bread

When Robuchon's mother would bring a loaf of bread to the dinner table, Robuchon told the Michelin Guide, she would hold it to her chest and make the sign of the cross with her hands over the bread. The loaf would then be cut into slices and given out to the family.

This passion for making food that would be shared with family was an approach that Robuchon used in his professional kitchens. He encouraged his staff and other young chefs to cook food passionately as if it were to be shared with the ones they loved. There was a time, however, when Robuchon had considered becoming a priest, having joined a seminary at age 12, according to People. It was while he was working in the seminary's kitchen that he discovered a love of cooking and decided to pursue a life of cooking instead.

It was a decision that would change his life and the culinary world forever. Reuters reported that when Robuchon died at age 73 in 2018, he had been named the "chef of the century" by the Gault et Millau cooking guide in 1990 and earned more than 30 Michelin stars at his restaurants.