Joël Robuchon, one of the world’s most celebrated chefs, died yesterday at his home in Geneva at the age of 73. He held a total of 32 Michelin stars, with restaurants around the world including Paris, London, Monaco, Hong Kong, Las Vegas, Tokyo and Bangkok. Hours after Robuchon's death was announced, French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to the highly-decorated chef in a statement from the Elysee Palace: "Joël Robuchon died today, but his 32 Michelin stars shine bright in the constellation of world gastronomy. His name and style embody French cuisine all over the world, they symbolize a lifestyle, a demand for a job well done, and convey the richness of our traditions," the statement read. It praised his attention to detail, ability to transform ingredients into mouthwatering dishes and his legacy.
Born in Poitiers, he became an apprentice chef at a local restaurant at the age of 15 and went on to head 19 top-rated restaurants across the globe. The Gault-Millau Guide named him ‘Chef of the Century’ in 1989. He presented several TV shows in France and was described by French food critics as “the first culinary superstar of the post-Nouvelle Cuisine era”. One of his best-known recipes was for mashed potatoes. It's surprising but true. When he first prepared his soon-to-be signature dish at Jamin in Paris in the early 1980's, he stunned the world with his grandmother's satisfying but ordinary mashed spuds, that even critics described eating it as an overwhelmingly “emotional” experience. Since then, Robuchon's incredibly rich potato purée has become so popular that customers demand it at every one of his restaurants. “I owe everything to these mashed potatoes. Maybe it’s a little bit of nostalgia, like Proust’s madeleines. Everyone has in his memory the mashed potatoes of his mother, the mashed potatoes of his grandmother.” The key to the dish is to keep the potatoes hot as you mix in the chilled butter — a pound for every two pounds of potato — that it takes vigorous and constant stirring to keep them smooth and silky. "The older I get, the more I realize the truth is: the simpler the food, the more exceptional it can be". A true culinary talent and visionary, he will be missed.
La Purée de Pommes de Terre
Recipe courtesy of chef Joël Robuchon
Chef Robuchon used a variety of potato called ‘la ratte', yellow fleshed, waxy in texture and said to have a nutty flavour. In Canada, the best substitution would be large yellow fingerlings or Yukon golds.
2 lb yellow-fleshed potatoes, such as yukon gold, unpeeled
Kosher salt, to taste
1⁄4 cup whole milk
1 lb unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
Boil the potatoes in an 8-quart pot of salted water until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain the potatoes and set aside to let cool slightly. Meanwhile, bring the milk to a boil in a 1-quart saucepan; remove from heat, cover, and set aside. Peel the potatoes and pass them through a food mill into a 4-quart saucepan set over medium-low heat. Using a rubber spatula, turn the potatoes frequently until they take on a drier, fluffier consistency, about 2–3 minutes, then reduce the heat to low. Working in batches, vigorously stir in the butter until mixture is creamy. Whisk in warmed milk, season potatoes with salt, and transfer them to a warm serving bowl. To achieve the Robuchon look, smooth the top of the potatoes with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula and serve straight away.