Richard Blais

Robuchon is a god. A culinary god.

on Sep 9, 2009

In tonight’s episode, Eli mentions in an interview that he wasn’t really sure if Joël Robuchon existed. That somehow, he may actually be just a myth. Somewhere between Big Foot, unicorns, and UFOs. It was a very appropriate comment for someone from our generation. The legend of Robuchon, for most of us, lives by the recipe of his signature mashed potato. A picture of a terrine of langoustine surrounded by a thousand dots of the greenest thyme leaf puree. Or the whispers of how he would hire apprentices whose sole purpose was to precisely slice chives, and then individually plate rings of the sliced onion in intricate circles.

I believe I started that last bit of lore, but it has kept a lot of my own students on their toes!

But here he is ... in person ... Yoda.

And as it was with Yoda, he is surrounded by the rest of the High Council. Masters who carry not the title of Jedi, but of “French Chef.”  And there really isn’t a more accurate and fitting metaphor than that.

The French are the pioneers of fine dining in our galaxy. They are steeped in tradition and history.  And even amongst a world filled with culinary bounty hunters and badasses, they will always slay a vagabond with a blaster. The Boba Fetts of our industry may have their immersion circulators and Paco Jet packs. Their smoking guns and Class IV lasers. But armed with only a spoon, the French are the culinary Illuminati, both to be feared and admired.

Their only weakness could be their self aggrandizement. As witnessed by our own Frenchman of the cast, Mattin. It seemed he was almost done in by his own overconfidence and righteousness. 

Cooking amidst mythical creatures, living legends, and Jedis, I can only imagine our chefs’ emotions. Cooking snails for a Quickfire was tough. Cooking snails under a time restraint and in a new kitchen, tougher. Knowing the consequence for a loss means packing your knives. Priceless from a viewer’s perspective—probably evil from a contestant’s, though.  

Interpretation presents itself for the first time as the buzz word for victory.

Preparing the classical protein or sauce in the style of Escoffier may get you to the next round, but to win, there must be artistic vision. Which, by the way, is another arena where the French have been known to excel.

As Robuchon speaks, the table quiets and the guests lean in to hear the great leader. His musings and utterances are like nectar to his enthralled parishioners. I’m all ears! And his comments are as inspiring to me through a small screen, as they seemed to be for our judges in person. I’d even guess that they were smitten. It reminded me of the good fortune I’ve had to hear sermons from the likes of Daniel, Adria, and Thomas Keller. To hear them talk about flavor, not solely from a cooking perspective but from an eating perspective. As it is with religion, even though there are many different disciplines, books and gods, they all generally speak to the same point.

The frog doesn’t accentuate the frog flavor. The poussin is overpowered. Harm no one. Give freely, be nice.

In the end, artistic interpretation or divine focus will not be sending someone home. It comes down to simple execution. And I’m reminded of a passage from some ancient religion, that existed a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

“Do or do not ... there is no try.”

Thanks for checking in this week and don’t forget to check out my companion piece “Second Helping” over at Creative Loafing.

And find me on Twitter @richardblais