The recipes Michel Richard shared with Washington Post readers over the years reflect the same playful spirit that sparked his restaurant creations and cookbooks, “Happy in the Kitchen” (Artisan, 2006) and “Sweet Magic” (Ecco, 2010).
“Michel was all about the recipes,” says Mel Davis, his fiercely loyal and close assistant for the past 15 years. “They were the most important thing. His love.”
The French chef, who died Saturday at 68, often began the process with one of his well-known doodles. “He tasted it in his head, drew a picture then went into the kitchen,” she says. “There were sketches on every scrap of paper.”
It was up to Davis to interpret recipes for the media, and she remembers her boss would huff and puff over simple questions such as: How hot should the flame be? “The chef expected anyone who cooked to figure out the answers.”
But when he taught classes at his Citronelle in Georgetown, or when he mentored young sisters on a mission for the Food section, he was patient and charming. Each preparation on the menu he devised for them included “the foundation on which to build a cooking repertoire,” wrote Chef on Call columnist David Hagedorn.
Richard’s declining health prevented him from cooking the last few years of his life, but he did take pleasure in two of his Central bistro signatures: the ahi tuna burger and the coconut sorbet, both of which he ate almost every day, Davis says.
His legacy lives on in our Recipe Finder. Cook in his memory by choosing one of these dishes — or a menu’s worth:
Snow Pea Linguine, shown at top. The crisp vegetable is transformed with knife work (julienne) and a pan glaze.
Figgy Piggy With Sweet Spiced Port Sauce. The chef introduced Post readers to sous-vide in 2006 by wrapping a seared, honey-rubbed pork tenderloin in plastic wrap, chilling it overnight and then poaching it in 140-degree water.
Michel Richard’s Fried Chicken Nuggets. His early fondness for KFC may have inspired this 2011 dish, which also relies on a sous-vide technique.
Asparagus Salmon. Challenging but doable for home cooks; the finished dish looks stunning.
Michel Richard’s Green Peppercorn Sauce. What a way to class up a steak.
Salmon With Red Wine Shiitake Sauce. Quick yet elegant; the fish is baked at a low temperature. From his Chef on Call mission.
Vegetable Bouillabaisse With Aioli. Another 2007 Chef on Call recipe that holds up, years later, flavored with classic French fish stew components including Pernod and saffron.
Sesame-Poppy Crisps. Delicate and tuile-thin. The recipe appeared in @WaPoFood’s 2011 Holiday Cookies.
Haute-Meal Cookies. With bacon! These were part of @WaPoFood’s Holiday Cookies 2010 collection.
Chocolate Grapes. Ingenious, from his 2006 “Happy in the Kitchen” (Artisan). Food staffers make them to this day.