As a dedicated team of proteges brings the late Joel Robuchon's magic to the Design District, Ocean Drive looks back at the Michelin-starred chef's legacy—and its path forward.
South Florida has been waiting with bated breath for chef Joël Robuchon’s restaurant in the Design District, and the passing last summer of the world’s most-Michelin starred chef left gourmands both saddened and anxious about what would happen next. Fortunately, a dedicated team of protégés—plus a seasoned chef who has been running kitchens and luxury hotel operations in Miami for more than a decade—is fully in place.
They are forging ahead to bring the exceptional culinary standards of the legendary chef into a new era in the Magic City. Invest Hospitality, which owns and operates the Robuchon portfolio in the U.S., has nestled into its own corner of the burgeoning Palm Court to create an elegant and approachable culinary nook.
Drawn to the Design District’s intersection of art, fashion and culture, three concepts—Robuchon’s much-lauded L’Atelier and two others created by his longtime mentees—will form a sophisticated gourmet destination unlike anything Miami has indulged in to date. The renowned experience of L’Atelier, the 10th iteration of the concept, launches under the direction of executive chef Christophe Bellanca and chef de cuisine Nancy Dominguez.
Vegetable-forward dishes at Le Jardinier will feature locally sourced produce, including herbs from the restaurant’s own rooftop garden.
The second outpost of the modern, vegetable-driven restaurant aptly titled Le Jardinier (French for “gardener”) is overseen by executive chef Alain Verzeroli, with Leo Pablo—veteran of J&G Grill by Jean-Georges, Upland, Stubborn Seed and others—running the kitchen daily. Dessert and bread programs at both L’Atelier and Le Jardinier are designed by executive pastry chef Salvatore Martone and head baker Tetsuya Yamaguchi, who together worked for Robuchon for more than three decades combined. Martone’s whimsical side takes center stage at the forthcoming ice cream shop—the third component of the collection—which will feature ice cream cupcakes, “cakesicles” and macaron ice cream sandwiches. Bellanca’s confidence in his training and mentor’s impact remains steadfast as the team marches forward.
“Chef Robuchon was an incredible teacher, and his legacy lives on in the hundreds of chefs around the world that he trained and inspired throughout his lifetime. Now it’s my responsibility to continue in that tradition of mentoring the next generation of talent,” he says. Having spent months in New York with Bellanca prior to opening, Dominguez’s prowess will be on display at the 34-seat dining counter—a feature synonymous with the L’Atelier brand, designed to give diners an interactive view of the creative process—as well as the surrounding intimate tables and outdoor deck. Dominguez will execute signature dishes, like the famed pommes puree, alongside rotating, seasonal selections featuring ingredients from nearby purveyors—which diners can enjoy a la carte or as part of the composed tasting menus. “Even as we create new dishes, we adhere to [Robuchon’s] principles of cuisine—quality, restraint and technique,” notes Bellanca.
The newer concept created by Verzeroli is directly influenced by his mentor’s continued evolution as a chef. “In creating Le Jardinier, some of my inspiration came from chef Robuchon’s interest in working with produce, and focus on a lighter style of cuisine toward the end of his life. He had even introduced a vegetarian tasting menu at L’Atelier. The overall concept of Le Jardinier pays tribute to a part of his legacy,” explains Verzeroli. The menu will include several notable dishes found at the New York City location; a rooftop garden will ultimately yield herbs, vegetables and fruits that provides the Miami location with a unique framework of ingredients.
The art of plating at L’Atelier
With outdoor seating nearly doubling the capacity of that available indoors, the lighter, vegetable-centric gourmet experience—which Verzeroli says draws “inspiration from the changing habits of sophisticated diners globally”—is accented by touches of fish, meat and poultry. As for what’s next for the late chef’s portfolio, Bellanca says, “We think the L’Atelier brand is strong and we are continually evaluating new potential locations on the East Coast and elsewhere on an opportunistic basis. We are focused on ensuring we maintain chef Robuchon’s extremely high standards, and we were honored to have been awarded two Michelin stars at L’Atelier New York and one Michelin star at Le Grill New York after his passing in 2018.” And we couldn’t be happier to welcome that illustrious standard for excellence to South Florida.
L'ATELIER PHOTO COURTESY OF L’ATELIER; LE JARDINIER PHOTO COURTESY OF LE JARDINIER; JOEL ROBUCHON PHOTO BY GERARD FOUET/AFP/GETTY IMAGES