Celebrity chefs may come and go, but Alain Ducasse is certainly no flash in the pan; for more than a decade the Monégasque chef has been dazzling patrons with his Michelin-starred fare, from high in the sky at Jules Verne to lower on the ground at London’s much-loved Dorchester. At one point, Ducasse was the first chef to own Michelin-starred restaurants in three different cities, with his restaurant at the Essex House hotel in New York, the Plaza Athénée restaurant in Paris and the Le Louis XV restaurant in Monte Carlo, Monaco. His restaurant at Essex House has since shut down, but his astounding achievement is still remembered. Not only is Ducasse an accomplished chef and restaurateur, but he has also enjoyed successes with his own cooking school, a number of influential cookbooks, a line of cooking supplies and dozens of endorsement deals. Hg2 ventures into the kitchen to see just how Ducasse earns those shiny golden stars.
Photos: Courtesy of Christian Trampenau
Check out Alain Ducasse’s London, Paris and New York
Name Alain Ducasse.
Background Ducasse was born in 1956 in Castel Sarrazin, a little village in the South-West of France. His passion for cuisine began as a child, and has seen him work with some of the world’s most renowned chefs; Michel Guérard, Gaston Lenôtre, Roger Vergé and Alain Chapel included. After working his way up the ranks, his reputation finally set the culinary scene alight in1990 when he was awarded three Michelin stars at Monaco’s Le Louis XV. He was just 33-years-old. Ducasse then went on to open another restaurant in Paris – also snagging itself three Michelin stars. His supreme organisational skills allow him to run the Monaco and Paris establishments in parallel. But the hungry young chef didn’t stop there: today, he runs a total of 26 restaurants, a hotel chain (Châteaux & Hôtels Collection), a publishing house, a training centre for professionals and a culinary school for amateurs. More than an empire: a system.
Are you a hedonist? Definitely a full-time hedonist. I take it so seriously that I can’t stop working hard on hedonism.
There are plenty of chefs out there. Why do you think you’ve become so well-known, and what marks you out from the culinary crowd? Don’t expect me to be self-congratulating. The recipe is deceptively simple: a lot of relentless work, an indispensable dash of craziness to go for my dreams, a very talented team around me and also a bit of luck.
What defines your cooking style? Thinking ‘out of the pan’ – not being stuck to one particular style. I don’t duplicate, I create. Each restaurant in each city has its own soul. I invent a way of expressing this spirit through dishes, yet also through the right design of the table and of the room.
What’s your signature dish? There is a recipe that is particularly dear to my heart: cocotte de légumes des jardins de Provence (casserole of vegetables from Provençal gardens). It embodies the Mediterranean cuisine spirit: the elegance of simple yet outstanding products. I created it at Le Louis XV in Monaco, where it is still served.
You own a number of restaurants, but work predominantly at The Dorchester; what is it about the hotel that you connect with? London is a major spot on the global gastronomic map and The Dorchester is a prominent address in the city. I love the challenge of being in this sort of vibrant place.
If you were a city, which one would you be and why?
Kyoto. I appreciate Japan in general very much, but for me Kyoto embodies the Japanese culture in all its dimensions – especially its handicraft and architecture.
Favourite city to live in? Monaco because last year Prince Albert asked me to become one of his citizens. This was a great honour and I proudly accepted.
Favourite city to holiday in? Saint-Jean de Luz in the Basque country. The most charming harbour you can imagine, surrounded by the most gorgeous landscape. And for a gourmand like me, a wealth of outstanding products from the countryside and from the sea.
Favourite food? Olive oil, because it is an iconic Mediterranean product. A summary of a culture, of an art de vivre and of course of the art of cooking.
Favourite drink? The Flower Power; a flower-flavoured cocktail with oxygen-enriched water, made exclusively at the bar of the Plaza Athénée.
Favourite hotel? La Bastide de Moustiers. A delightful country inn in Provence I bought in 1995. This is where I go when I want to relax.
Favourite shop? Goyard, rue Saint-Honoré, Paris. It is an old, highly-regarded luggage-maker. I am a frantic collector of luggage, trunks and packing cases.
Favourite club? The informal club of chefs; the only one where membership is based on one’s true merits.
Favourite cultural attraction? Mid-February, I will rush to the Pompidou Centre in Paris for the opening of Patrick Jouin’s exposition. Patrick is an exceptional designer I have worked with since 1998. This exposition, in such a prestigious place, will be the acknowledgement of his talent.
What’s next for you? Spending a peaceful evening with my wife Gwenaëlle and preparing a romantic dinner for her.