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The Restaurant Industry Remembers Chef Michel Richard

Friends and colleagues share thoughts about the culinary mastermind behind Citronelle and Central, who died Saturday

Michel Richard
Michel Richard
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

The D.C. restaurant industry was deeply saddened by the news this weekend that James Beard Award-winning chef Michel Richard has died. Many have been expressing their condolences and memories on social media. Eater is also collecting tributes sent to us here: If you have some words to share about Michel Richard, please send them to

"Michel Richards' food and imagination was beyond the ordinary, and he will always be remembered as one of the most playful and creative chefs of his time. I learned so much from Michel over the years, not only through cooking together, but also spending time together--smoking cigars, drinking great great wines, and talking about our food at Marcel's and Citronelle. He will be greatly missed, my friend, Michel." -- Chef Robert Wiedmaier, RW Restaurant Group

"I speak often about my very first meal at Citrus in LA; it was the late 80s and getting to meet Michel, see his innovative presentations, and taste his delicious food, was incredibly impactful on me. I was a young chef and completely impressed by not only Michel's skills in the kitchen, but by his sense of hospitality and passion." -- Michael Schlow, restaurateur

"One great evening, I was having dinner at the chef's table in Citronelle with Michel, Jean-Louis Palladin and Michel Rostang from Paris. Jean-Louis said to Michel Rostang, Michel is the chef's chef." -- Larry Shupnick, Richard's business partner for 40 years

"I first met Michel during my interview for Citronelle, which was at a tavern in Georgetown. He sat down at the table and brought a wheel of Camembert and asked me to taste the cheese. I'd have to say that was one of the coolest job interviews I ever had. I was hooked forever." -- Brian Zipin, Sommelier at Central

"I remember his energetic and childlike spirit. One Thanksgiving, we served over 300 guests for a high-end buffet style feast. Each chef worked one station and the food was done in small batch production to ensure quality, something Michel was adamant about. My station was green beans. Every time a batch was made I had to test it to ensure proper cooking and seasoning, again something Michel was adamant about. I tasted and served more green beans that night than I had in my whole life!  To this day every time I see a green bean I think of Michel." -- Dennis Friedman, Chef at Shouk (and former employee at Citronelle)

"Michel was one of a kind--a chef's chef. All of us probably wanted to be like him a little - larger than life, hugely talented, comfortable in his own skin and deeply rooted in his kitchen. Michel's cohort in D.C. was an awesome and tight knit community of chefs. When I came to town from New York, I was struck by their collaboration, their passion, and their ability to make the time to sit down with each other and remember to have some fun and enjoy life even though they worked so hard to achieve success. Michel was a big part of that." -- Rob Weland, Chef/Owner, Garrison

"In 2010, as he was working with my baker in Alexandria to perfect his olive oil brioche buns for his burger and lobster roll at Central, he just showed up at the back door of Bastille and popped in his head: "Do you have any pate, Christophe?" Even though it was the middle of the kitchen break, we set him up a platter of charcuteries and cheeses and a bottle of wine. He was a "bon vivant". One of my young cooks, who graduated from CIA, almost dropped her jaw when she recognized him. She was shaking. I told her to relax. He just a great man who enjoys a good time. That's what he was." -- Christophe Poteaux, Chef, Bastille

"As a local restauranteur I recognized Michel as this city's true culinary pioneer. Always breaking new ground with ideas that danced in his innovative culinary mind." -- Alan Popovsky, Owner, Lincoln, Teddy & The Bully Bar and Declaration

"I used to work at Angeli down Melrose Avenue from Citrus and used to eat there often and go to wonderful wine tastings there. The food was starting to show the playful nature of Chef Richard. But even better than the food was how Chef treated everyone, including a pretty anonymous wine geek/restaurant manager like me with respect. When he came to our restaurant, he would have me pick a wine for him and he always was copious in his enthusiasm at trying something new, even if it wasn't French!" -- Dean Gold, Chef/Owner, Dino's Grotto

"RIP: Michel Richard, one of the truly great chefs in America, passed away this morning. There was nobody who had more fun in the kitchen." -- Ruth Reichl, food writer

"I once asked Chef Michel Richard 'What would you like to be most remembered for in the culinary world?' His eyes brightened up and he responded, "as someone who loved what he did. I absolutely love my profession. When guests come to my restaurant and we can provide them with a beautiful, peaceful smile because they are enjoying themselves, that feels good." Goodbye dear friend. Thank you for the smiles." -- Thomas Keller, chef

"He was one of the most jovial people I ever met. And he gave back to the community constantly by raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for countless DC area charities and St. Jude's Children's Hospital. Michel you leave wonderful memories. Thank you, my friend." -- Bob Madigan, former WTOP Radio Man About Town

"Chef Richard's most recent visit to the museum was in April 2015, when he dropped in from his restaurant to see his friend, Chef Kaz Okochi, who was demonstrating the finer points of rolling sushi at an After Hours event. Chef Richard's playful side was in full view as he jumped right into the mix and practiced his own sushi-rolling techniques under the watchful gaze of Chef Kaz and to the delight of the museum guests." -- National Museum of American History

"Michel Richard was a genius. That's not a word to be used indiscriminately, though it often is. But it's true. He was. One of the few. It was easy to see the virtuosic brilliance in his dishes, the dazzling wit that made you smile before you'd even taken a bite. What was not easy to see, in part because the brilliance was so blinding, was the world that gave rise to this invented world. A real world of pain and heartache. His food was an escape..." — Todd Kliman, food writer