A NIGHT TO REMEMBER
The late Joël Robuchon’s culinary prowess was celebrated by his family of chefs in a magnificent tribute dinner at his three-Michelin-star restaurant at the Grand Lisboa in Macau
THE CULINARY WORLD lost one of its greatest minds in August. With more Michelin stars to his name than any other chef, not to mention being a recipient of the Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 1976 and having been named Chef of the Century by the French restaurant guide Gault Millau in 1989, Joël Robuchon passed away at the age of 73. But with restaurants around the world, his work has by no means died with him and there’s a bright future, as chefs he worked with over many decades have already joined forces to celebrate his impressive command of the kitchen and of French cuisine. High up in Macau’s Grand Lisboa – the hotel itself a gastronome’s destination, boasting seven Michelin stars under its roof – lies Robuchon au Dôme. This fine-dining restaurant, which offers magnificent views, has held three Michelin stars for 10 consecutive years. And though the chef to whom it owes more than simply its name may be gone, it was recently the location in which members of Robuchon’s culinary family came together, determined to continue telling their mentor’s story through his classic dishes. In October the Macau restaurant hosted the Robuchon au Dôme Gala Dinner 2018, in which the resident chef was joined by various leading chefs – all of whom worked with Robuchon and share his
culinary DNA – in the meticulous preparation of an eight-course dinner in honour of the man who inspired and influenced them. “I worked with him for 20 years,” says executive chef Julien Tongourian, who opened the very first L’ Atelier with Robuchon in 2003 and who’s been at Robuchon au Dôme since 2014. “He taught me that the precision in making each dish is important and that we must cook with heart and passion for our guests, just as if they’re our family. Here at Robuchon au Dôme, I carry on his life’s work.” Tongourian was joined by Éric Bouchenoire, chef du laboratoire de création et coordination, a perfectionist who’s also been honoured with the Meilleur Ouvrier de France and who’d worked with Robuchon since 1985; Tomonori Danzaki, chef conseil, who opened Joël Robuchon in Tokyo with the late chef and worked at a number of his other restaurants around the world; and François Benot, chef pâtissier conseil from Joël Robuchon International France, who joined Robuchon in the opening of La Table in Paris. United in Macau for one night only beneath the restaurant’s impressive chandelier, which features more than 131,500 pieces of Swarovski crystal, the scene was beautifully set for a most memorable evening. “We carefully designed this menu to preserve the authenticity of Robuchon’s work,” says Tongourian. “We want guests immediately to recognise that each dish is the work of Mr Robuchon, as he was inspirational for many people around the world.” The eight-course menu included three dishes that are unmistakably Robuchon and date back to his early days as a chef. These dishes are as current and contemporary today as when they were first created – a testament to the chef’s prescience. Le Caviar der Sologne is Robuchon at his best. Created at the chef’s first restaurant, Jamin, in the 1980s, the dish features caviar in a fine crustacean jelly with cauliflower cream. The dish was so popular from the outset that as Robuchon’s renown grew and he began to open restaurants around the world, he took it with him. The dish became part of his identity and it seemed only right
that it be served on this momentous occasion. The dish’s beauty derives from the contrast between the powerful flavour of the caviar and the softness of creamed cauliflower. The quality of ingredients was of utmost importance to Robuchon and his caviar was always expertly chosen for both size and texture. His caviar of choice came from Sologne in France and, prepared in the classic way, it was used for this event. Robuchon was equally fastidious over preparation, which was often laborious. For this dish the chefs use veal feet to make the broth in a six-hour process, and for the lobster bouillon they incorporate only the fresh meat of the lobster – and never the shell – to ensure it’s clean and pure. The dish is elevated to art in its presentation, with dots of sauce around the bowl – a symbol of Robuchon’s perfectionism and that of the chefs who learnt from him. La Langoustine also put Robuchon’s prowess on display. Comprising scampi ravioli with braised green Savoy cabbage, this was one of the French chef’s first signature dishes. Atlantic scampi is wrapped in a thin ravioli pastry and seasoned with truffles. There’s a delicacy to the dish, with aromas of langoustine and truffle representing a balance of land and sea. The ravioli is garnished with a light foie gras emulsion, and served with braised green Savoy cabbage on the side. The dish exemplifies Robuchon’s culinary philosophy for simple cuisine that’s extremely well executed and reveals all the flavours of the various ingredients. Technique has been an important element of Robuchon’s culinary journey and La Poularde de Bresse demonstrates his skills to great effect. The dish comprises French chicken cooked in pork bladder in the most traditional of ways and was recreated by Tongourian for the Gala Dinner. The chef used the classic French en vessie technique, which involves first poaching the chicken in an aromatic broth then containing it in a “balloon” and cooking it in the pig bladder. It thus envelops the chicken in steam and infuses it with all the bladder’s flavours. While the technique adds to the taste and ensures the tender and juicy parts of the chicken are beautifully preserved, the process also means diners experience an element of surprise in the dish’s presentation. The Robuchon au Dôme Gala Dinner was certainly a night to remember, displaying for diners Robuchon’s lifelong pursuit of culinary perfection and the technical and emotional prowess of his culinary art. That four of his closest chefs so beautifully and meticulously created this menu in Robuchon’s honour not only shows the admiration and respect that this culinary luminary enjoyed, but also proves that his legacy will endure through his restaurants around the world.
FROM LEFT: LA LANGOUSTINE, LE CAVIAR DE SOLOGNE AND LA POULARDE DE BRESSE