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Legendary Chef and Restaurateur Michel Richard Has Died

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The man who put a French twist on American cuisine died Saturday of complications from a stroke

'Ratatouille' Celebration At Social Hollywood - Arrivals
Michel Richard in 2007.
Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

Sad news in the culinary world today. Legendary chef and author Michel Richard died Saturday morning. He was 68. Since the 1980s, Richard built a catalogue of restaurants that blended American and French cuisine. He garnered national acclaim with his flagship fine-dining American eatery, Citronelle, in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood and later Central Michel Richard.

Born in Brittany, France, Richard was an adept pastry chef who began his bakery apprenticeship at age 14. Three years later Richard moved to Paris where he worked at Maison Lenotre under famed French pastry chef Gaston Lenôtre. In April 1974, Lenotre sent 20-year-old Richard to help open Chateau France in New York. Though the restaurant and pastry shop was short-lived, the experience marked a turning point and encouraged Richard to stay in America.

The chef made his first splash in 1977 when he opened Michel Richard Pastry Shop in Los Angeles and by the 1980s was operating multiple restaurants from San Francisco to Philadelphia. Perhaps one of Richard’s greatest achievements came in 1994 when he opened his flagship Citronelle restaurant in Washington, D.C. The restaurant has since shuttered. Richard made several attempts to branch out into New York and Las Vegas, but none of his later projects charmed critics quite like his D.C.-area restaurants.

Throughout his career, Richard was the recipient of numerous awards. He earned his first accolade from the James Beard Foundation in 1991 for the Who’s Who of Food in Beverage in America. In 2007, he received the foundation’s top honor, Outstanding Chef. Then in 2008, his other acclaimed D.C. restaurant Central Michel Richard was named Best New Restaurant by the Beards.

The Washington Post reports Richard’s death resulted from complications from a stroke. Shortly after his passing, Richard’s death was announced on Facebook by fellow chef Roberto Donna. The news has not gone unnoticed by chefs who shared their thoughts and memories on Twitter:

All Michel Richard Coverage [E]

Michel Richard, Innovative Chef Who Made D.C. a Capital of Dining, Dies at 68 [WaPo]

All RIP Coverage [E]