Joel Robuchon And His Mashed Potato – Encore Du Beurre!
Legendary French chef Joel Robuchon has died in Geneva from cancer at the age of 73. In a glittering career he was awarded more Michelin stars than anyone else – holding a world-record 32 across his various restaurants in 2016 – and in 1990 the prestigious Gault et Millau guide named him the Chef of The Century. But despite all the gongs and plaudits over the years, he was best known for a dish containing just four ingredients – potato, salt, butter and milk.
Tom Aikens was one of many British chefs who earned their spurs working for Robuchon (including Gordon Ramsay, the only chef he ever threw a plate at) and this is his description of what was involved in preparing this ‘simple’ dish in a Robuchon kitchen.
‘Robuchon in Paris was famous for its puree de pommes de terre or mashed potato. When I was working there, I was fortunate enough not to have to prepare it, as it was one of the hardest jobs in that kitchen, taking about 2 hours from start to finish. We used Ratte potatoes - a good waxy potato. They would first be scrubbed and slowly cooked, still in the skins to protect them from the water. After about 30-35 minutes they would be drained and kept over simmering water, so they remained warm while being peeled. They were then put into a mouli with a lot of butter, then placed in another pan with even more butter, and then it was all brought together with hot milk. It was then passed through a very fine sieve (so fine you couldn't actually see through the mesh). This would take another 30 minutes, and it was so hard the chefs would be exhausted by the end. When the time came to use the potato, it was placed in a copper pan and warmed, then more butter was whisked in to make it light and fluffy. This would take another 45-60 minutes! There was more butter than potato, and it was so rich you could only eat a small amount.’
Spare a thought next time you're doing the mash for the Sunday Roast.