There are moments in life that you know you will never forget. Many of mine revolve around food.
The earliest memories begin with rainy Sundays spent with my family watching movies, where my Dad cooked an Italian feast and eggplant parmigiana was a favorite (he was a much better cook than my Mom at the time).
Then childhood summers spent at my European born grandparent’s home, around surrounding farmlands and mountains in Virginia, where we picked berries, made pies and jam, and looked forward to every single homemade meal.
More adult memories included baking yemista, fresh stuffed vegetables, in our backyard brick oven on the beautiful Greek island of Xios and a full food epiphany dining in NYC at Gotham Bar and Grill, my first “fancy” restaurant.
Art came into play a bit when I started bringing artists and chefs together and I will never forget the 14 month collaboration with Daniel Boulud and Vik Muniz.
My “higher” culinary training was through the James Beard Foundation, which I encourage you all to be a member of if you love food.
Through one of their annual auctions, I won private cooking lessons with Julia Child where Julia highly encouraged my sister and I to use more butter and to drink more wine. She lived until she was 91, so something to consider!
I was reminded of that lesson last week with the most Michelin-starred chef in the world, Joël Robuchon, in his kitchen at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. It was a small, intimate celebration relating to his newest Michelin star, which he now has an unprecedented 27 of.
After a demonstration of his coriander soup and langoustine course, I volunteered to be his next assistant for the beef dish, which he guided me in how to cook. I admit that as soon as I stood next to him, and it wasn’t my first time, I felt like a deer in headlights, a bit shocked and even scared but tremendously grateful.
We began by seasoning the meat, first with generous sprinklings of black pepper, which was massaged afterwards into the beef, and then salt. We were told that in this country we seem to under season our food. There was a large metal bowl of unsalted butter, which the Chef used a good portion of to sauté the meat in.
He explained that his family used butter over oil in all their cooking with his aunt living to 105 and his mom to 100 as well as many other close relatives (so there you have it, the secret to a long life…eat more butter).
We created our dish, toasted with champagne, then went on to eat, with perfectly selected wines, each demonstrated course. I’m still floating on that memory and will for a long time.
If you would like to experience Joël Robuchon’s cooking in your own kitchen, here is a very easy recipe, from The Complete Robuchon cookbook, to follow:
La Coriandre (Chilled Coriander Soup)
Preparation and Cooking Time – 15 Minutes
300 gram (10.5 oz) cream cheese (the chef used Philadelphia cream cheese), cut into cubes
300 gram (10.5 oz) cold chicken stock
30 gram (1 oz) coriander leaves (cilantro leaves)
In a mixer bowl or blender, add the coriander leaves and pour in chicken stock. Mix it for 1 1/2 minutes. Add the cream cheese and mix it again for another 1 1/2 minutes.
In a soup plate, pour in the chilled soup. Garnish with coriander leaves, a pinch of black pepper and drops of olive oil.
To make reservations and learn more about L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon: