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Julien Tongourian on Honoring Joël Robuchon’s Legacy

By Emma Reynolds

Since the passing of legendary French chef Joël Robuchon last year, Julien Tongourian has continued to preserve his legacy through impeccable French cuisine at three-Michelin-starred Robuchon au Dôme in Macau.

Tongourian began working with Robuchon in 2000, when he started as a commis chef at Laurent in Paris before moving to Hong Kong and Macau.

“I worked with Robuchon for almost 20 years,” he says. “We have the same spirit of cooking and respect of the product.” Robuchon au Dôme, a 58-seat restaurant located in a glass dome atop the Grand Lisboa Hotel, has earned three Michelin stars for 11 consecutive years.

Julien Tongourian at Robuchon au Dôme / ©RicardoDangelo

“We don’t work for Michelin stars,” Tongourian says, though he adds that he’s incredibly honored by the recognition. “We try to make the best experience and make memories for [our guests].”

His thoughtfulness doesn’t stop at his dishes — after Robuchon’s passing, Tongourian collected every menu from Robuchon’s first restaurant, Le Jamin (which opened in 1981), in order to recreate some of its most famous dishes, then updated each with his personal flair, whether a new ingredient or plate design.

Le Bœuf at Robuchon au Dôme / ©RicardoDangelo

“I want to continue to work for the memory of chef Robuchon,” he says; this includes sharing his cuisine with a new generation. Tongourian is proud that Robuchon taught him nearly everything he knows in the kitchen, including the idea that simplicity is key. Tongourian’s dishes, while works of art, are built around this idea.

“On our [kitchen] wall we have written ‘It’s difficult to make simple,’” he says. Simplicity is the key to French cooking. “As the French say, if you have some butter, cream and wine, you can make any sauce,” he jokes.

French tradition is the ethos of Robuchon au Dôme — Tongourian flies nearly every ingredient in from France, but uses beef from Japan and seafood from Macau in his dishes in response to clients’ preferences.

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“If I have the best restaurant, I need to use the best product.”

Despite his numerous accolades, Tongourian leaves his ego at the door and focuses on what matters most to him: his guests. “If I can touch people with my kitchen, that is my goal. It’s my inspiration,” he says. “I think only this job can give you that.”

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