Remembering Chef Michel Richard, a longtime friend to the museum

By Paula J. Johnson
Photo of a kitchen with light blue cabinets, a large rectangular dining table with marigold tablecloth, and lots of pots and pans.

Today we reflect on the legacy of Chef Michel Richard, who delighted generations of Washington, D.C., diners with his innovative and playful cuisine, first at Citronelle in Georgetown, and more recently at Central Michel Richard, located just a few short blocks from the museum. Chef Richard, who passed away this morning in Washington, began his culinary training in his native France and moved to the United States in 1975. After opening and running several successful restaurants and pastry shops in Santa Fe, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara, he settled in Washington, D.C., in 1993. By combining American favorites with French influences in innovative ways, he created a cuisine that reflected his deep appreciation for both traditions and his irrepressible joie de vivre.  

Color photo. Three people at a dining table with white tablecloth embrace and smile for the camera. On the table, glasses of wine.

Photo of a kitchen with light blue cabinets, a large rectangular dining table with marigold tablecloth, and lots of pots and pans.

Chef Michel Richard was a longtime friend of the museum and an early supporter of our Smithsonian Food History Project. He graciously served as the Culinary Consultant for the museum's first Winemakers' Dinner in 2012, developing a menu that celebrated his friend, Julia Child's, legacy and the re-opening of her home kitchen in our exhibition, FOOD: Transforming the American Table. (At the event Chef reminded us that he had actually cooked with Julia in that very kitchen, famously making Puff Pastry & Tourte Milanese on her show Baking with Julia.)

Color photo. In the museum lobby, a table with ingredients and two people preparing sushi. An audience watches.

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.  

We will miss Chef Michel Richard, and are enormously grateful to him for choosing Washington, D.C., and the museum's neighborhood to put down his culinary roots and practice his beautiful culinary craft.  

Paula Johnson is a curator in the Division of Work and Industry. She has also blogged about cooking with Julia Child in Washington, D.C.

The museum is proud to preserve Julia Child's legacy through programs exploring food history, supported in part by the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts.