One of the most influential celebrity chefs, Joël Robuchon, passed away on August 6, 2018, at the age of 73 following a year-long battle with cancer. Earning over 30 Michelin stars throughout his career, the iconic French chef is credited with winning the most Michelin stars in the world. In 1990, French restaurant guide Gault et Millau named Robuchon the "chef of the century".
The celebrity chef, who initially wanted to be a priest, first discovered his love for cooking at a seminary. At the age of 15, he entered his first kitchen as an apprentice at the Relais of Poitiers Hotel where he worked as a pastry chef. He then joined the Compagnon du Tour de France apprenticeship and excelled at learning different regional techniques.
He opened his first restaurant, Jamin, at the age of 36 which won a Michelin within the first year itself. Soon after, his culinary empire of gourmet restaurants spread across the world to cities including Paris, Monaco, Hong Kong, Las Vegas, Tokyo and Bangkok. The chef also made several appearances on French television and mentored many other influential restaurateurs such as Gordon Ramsay and Michael Caines.
Known for his perfectionism, Chef Robuchon believed in using few ingredients and doing justice to their distinct flavours by keeping the preparation simple. While he remains best-known for his mashed potatoes recipe, here's a look at 5 of the best dishes from the master of French gastronomy and what made them great.
Mashed potatoes puree dish
Chef Robuchon is credited for creating the "world's best mashed potatoes". Made with a significant heap of butter, this signature dish won him a Michelin star. His mashed potato recipe uses just four ingredients: potatoes, milk, butter and salt. He believed the simpler the dish, the more exceptional it will turn out to be, unlike popular French nouvelle cuisine. He took the simplest ingredients and turned them into something extravagant. For his famous mashed potato recipe, he combined potatoes with cream and heaped chilled butter to create the silkiest, almost liquid gold-like mashed potatoes.
Frothy lettuce soup with onion custard
Frothy lettuce soup with onion custard by chef Robuchon is more than just a steaming bowl of soup. Made with Boston lettuce, bacon, white onion, crème fraîche, chicken stock, this frothy lettuce soup with onion custard has intense flavours and is rich in protein. This soup recipe involves an elaborate process which requires one to prepare the lettuce soup and onion custard separately. The lettuce soup is then poured over the delicate onion custard on a bed of shredded bacon and lettuce.
Sautéed bass with lemongrass
The inspiration for most of his classic creations came to Chef Robuchon when he was travelling. He was known to pick up ideas from several places to put together a wholesome dish like the sautéed bass with lemongrass. The sautéed bass with lemongrass recipe makes use of shallots, scallions, sea bass fillets and lemongrass. This dish is a perfect amalgamation of Thai ingredients cooked using French techniques.
The chef of the century took the classic French mushroom soup, mushroom velouté, and gave it a rich flavour using crème fraîche or soured cream. Chef Robuchon made his mushroom soup recipe using white mushrooms and shitake mushrooms and served it with French parsley and sautéed mushrooms.
The renowned chef rebelled against the fine dining culture by creating simple yet starkly impressive dishes in the kitchen. To avoid excess fat in his eggplant compote, chef Robuchon steamed the eggplants instead of cooking them in oil. Chef Robuchon's eggplant compote recipe involves softening the spongy eggplants by steaming them until they turn tender. They are then added to a rich tomato sauce flavoured with cumin and paprika. The final dish is seasoned with lemon zest, cilantro and parsley to add a punch of flavour.
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