Geneva, a feast for the senses

In Olivier Jean’s two Michelin-starred kitchen

Isabelle Guignet
Guillaume Cottancin
Winter 2023-2024

Much more than a revolving door for diplomats, Geneva is also a culturally diverse paradise for food lovers. Need proof? Look no further than Olivier Jean and L’Atelier Robuchon, which was awarded a second Michelin star this fall.

Humble, discreet, and good natured, Oliver Jean has much to smile about these days. Just two years after opening, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon (located in the basement of The Woodward luxury hotel in Geneva) has once again staked a claim to excellence and unlocked a second Michelin Star, thanks to their incredible chef from Isère, France. A recognition that’s made all the more significant by the fact that this star came just one year after earning their first. Nothing could have made Olivier Jean happier or prouder: “I owe this second star to my team, who do spectacular work every single day,” he confessed with gratitude, in honour of the 11 people who power the kitchen at L’Atelier Robuchon.

His magic words are “excellence” and “innovation.” His inspiration is none other than Joël Robuchon himself. Named Executive Chef of the Taiwanese branch of L’Atelier when he was only 27 years old, Olivier Jean still remembers hearing his master chef say those rare, coveted words, after tasting his Tournedos Rossini: “I’m proud of you.” “Fabulous,” he even added. Those words will forever live in the young chef’s memories, and Robuchon would repeat them again when Olivier won his first star in 2018. Honour, gratitude, respect, trust… these are all feelings Olivier experienced when he was awarded a second star, thanks in large part to the skills he learned working side-by-side with the great Robuchon, who, of course, congratulated him again this time, like a father who’s proud of his son.

An eclectic gastronome
A second star for this Genevan chef by no means makes him stuck up when it comes to food. As an authentic local food lover, he can’t help stopping at every food stand and truck he sees. A simple plate of steak and French fries, with some Bearnaise sauce and a nice Bordeaux, makes him the happiest man on earth.

So, what does Olivier Jean love about Geneva? More than anything else, he loves the city’s rich culinary scene — at the confluence of so many cultures — and its wide variety of local and exotic dining options. The chef has many recommendations to share. Looking for perch filets from Lake Geneva? He recommends La Coupole, an iconic Genevan establishment, where freshness is guaranteed by the restaurant’s partnered fishermen, and where the chef delicately prepares the dish with lemon butter. A bistronomic restaurant that tickles his tastebuds? “Go see Serge Labrosse at La Chaumière (1 Michelin star) for an authentic and finely prepared meal,” he says. For classically elegant French cuisine, he recommends Michel Roth (who he idolizes) at the Hotel President Wilson. What about fish and shellfish? Jean-Marc Bessire, at Cigalon, will have what you want, says the chef. “All of the restaurants run by starred chefs in Geneva are brilliant, varied and interesting,” he adds enthusiastically. There’s no doubt in his mind that this lakeside city is experiencing a meteoric rise in culinary arts and quality.

At home at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Geneva is Olivier Jean’s new home. Two years, two stars, and he has every intention of maintaining them with great modesty. “We never stop learning!” he exclaims, comparing the art of cooking to architecture, watchmaking and even music. An art that must be practiced every day. “Above all, what makes a good chef is the palate, which must be fine-tuned at all times.” And he practices what he preaches: he tastes at least 140 teaspoons of food every day to ensure every dish leaving his kitchen is perfect!

The menu? “50% signature dishes and 50% creations based on the seasons and clients’ demands,” he explains. That is how his Caviar Impérial, which was invented in Singapore in 2017, came to be: made of crab with a refreshing lobster jelly that’s topped with Imperial Caviar. But when it comes to Joël Robuchon’s legendary mashed potato recipe, the young chef refuses to give away any of his mentor’s secrets. The only thing he’ll say is that the restaurant uses 12 kilos of potatoes every day, along with a large quantity of butter. To see it made in person, you’ll have to get a seat at the counter to watch Olivier Jean and his team perform their magic, before moving to a table at this beautiful two Michelin-starred establishment.