Michelin maestro Alain Ducasse talks boats, Brexit and boutiques

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Alain Ducasse boats, Brexit and boutiques

Related tags: Michelin, Chef, Alain ducasse, Fine dining, brexit

The world’s most Michelin-decorated chef has been busy launching a floating restaurant in Paris and a chocolate shop in London. We caught up with him last month in Paris’ Le Meurice over a special lunch cooked by three of his top chefs.

What's on the menu?
Marinated sea scallops, bergamot and delicate seaweed consommé; carrots, turnips and abalone; and saddle of venison, lardo di Colonnata and juniper, peppered sauce.

And who's cooking it?
We’ve brought together the three chefs that oversee my trio of three-star restaurants. Dominique Lory of the Louis XV-Alain Ducasse restaurant in Monaco, Jean-Philipp Blondet of Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester in London and Kei Kojima of the Beige Alain Ducasse restaurant in Tokyo. The dessert is prepared by Cédric Grolet from Le Meurice Alain Ducasse, who is currently The World’s Best Pastry Chef, and Le Meurice's Jocelyn Herland is also involved. 

That's quite a line-up...
We want to show Paris that we are part of the culinary scene in Japan, London and Monaco, and use that experience to create an excellent experience.

Japan and Paris are quite far away from each other. How do you maintain standards across the world?
The key is having the right team. Our employees have been working with us for a long time. Dominique has been with me for 20 years, Jean-Philippe has been with me for 14 years and Kei has been with me for 25 years.

What's the secret to retaining that sort of talent?
To help them grow professionally, and to support them along the way. Job satisfaction and a sense of fulfilment is also important. I come up with the vision, and then we define a framework together to create a great culinary experience. I operate like that in all of my restaurants.

After all these years, do you still hold your breath when Michelin announces its latest ratings?
I sleep well the night before and I sleep well the night after. To be honest, it’s better to have the stars, but it’s also important to know how to live without them.

What do you look for in a chef?
A chef’s personality is important, as is their ambition. An understanding of produce and technique is necessary, but so too is the ability for a chef to be able to tell their own culinary story. Whether the chef works in a modest restaurant, or in a more sophisticated setting, they must have all these qualities.

Chefs are facing many challenges at the moment. Which is the most pressing?
Using less animal protein. I am not against meat, I am saying that when we do use meat, we must ensure it is sourced in a way that looks after the planet. When the produce comes from the sea, it’s important to respect seasonality. We also need to look after our customers by using less fat, salt and sugar. My restaurants have been at the forefront of this. We launched a vegetable-based menu in Monaco more than 30 years ago. Back then, this menu accounted for perhaps 2% of total orders. Today, it accounts for 25%. I’ve advocated a humanist vision for cuisine for some time.

Can you tell us a little more about that?
Whether it is in a modest bistro or a gastronomic restaurant, we start with the producer and cover all aspects until we are sharing food at a table. Conflicts ease for the period of time that we share a meal. In a ‘Googled’ world – a globalised world – sharing food around a table is something very special and I think that, in doing this, we can find a humanistic element.

How so?
Firstly, the diner has the right to know what they are eating and where it comes from. Was it cultivated or raised well? That is the starting point. A good chef is interested in where produce is sourced. There must be a connection between the chef and the producer. Next, and as already mentioned, chefs need to use less fat, salt, sugar and animal protein. This is better for the planet’s health and better for ours too. Thanks to the media interest in the industry, little by little, we can help spread the word and influence change. It’s good to lead by example, and also to talk about it.

As a chef that has considerable business interest on both sides of the Channel, what's your view on Brexit?
It’s terrible for Europe. It’s terrible for the British. It’s terrible for the French. It’s not in the spirit of history.

This is a web version of an article that first appeared in the March issue of Restaurant magazine, the leading title for the UK's restaurant industry. For more features, comment, interviews and in-depth analysis of the restaurant sector subscribe to Restaurant magazine here​​​

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