With 21 Michelin stars to his name, Alain Ducasse is one of the world’s most decorated chefs. Over the course of his career, he has opened over 25 restaurants across the globe, launched a cooking school and an artisan chocolate company. Following the reopening of his flagship restaurant Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, we speak to the chef about sustainability, collaborating with Jason Atherton and the importance of telling your own story
LUX: Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you started as a chef?
Alain Ducasse: My first memory is the smell and taste of the dishes my grandmother used to cook. We used to live in the countryside, and she was often sending me to the garden to pick vegetables. I loved to look at her cooking our Sunday roast chicken, and transforming the produce of the garden into delicious family dishes. She is my biggest source of inspiration, even today.
LUX: Your company Ducasse Paris comprises numerous establishments, how do you ensure a consistent level of quality across the restaurants?
Alain Ducasse: All of my chefs have been working with me for many years, sometimes for more than 20 years. This is the best way to ensure a consistent level of quality across my restaurants. They are totally instilled with my vision and I know they can perfectly interpret it with their own personality.
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LUX: What’s your process like when you’re creating a new recipe? Where do you typically find your inspiration?
Alain Ducasse: When I create a dish, it is all about the local resources: what can I found locally? Where am I? What are the influences around me? Then, I apply the technics and DNA of French cuisine to create.
LUX: Over the course of your career, how have fine dining expectations changed?
Alain Ducasse: All the guests have nowadays all the information they need through social medias, and internet. You are now able to share all your experiences with millions of other customers, so of course now the expectations are higher and the customers are unfaithful because they have a lot of choice.
LUX: How much attention do you pay to dining trends?
Alain Ducasse: It’s all about moving with our times. The most important is to tell your own story. Each restaurant must be true to the location where it is situated, in tune with the lifestyle of the guests it is welcoming from all over the world.
LUX: This year saw the reopening of Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. What’s changed?
Alain Ducasse: I am delighted to partner once again with Jouin Manku to visually bring to life the most recent evolution of Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. The new concept is a sensorial feast that champions nature’s unrivalled beauty and pays homage to our vibrant Mayfair location.
In the main dining area, Jouin Manku have opened the room, introducing curved wood and leather banquettes which anchor the tables within the space. In contrast to the dark, smoky colours of the furniture, the green and silver tones of the carpet suggest a mist through the park, progressively darkening to the edges.
LUX: How did the idea for a dinner in support of Hospitality Action with Jason Atherton come about and what can guests expect from the evening?
Alain Ducasse: I have followed this young chef for a while now. I love his vision and his open mind. To support Hospitality Action with this one-off dinner is a great occasion to work together for a charity we both love and to welcome our guests in the freshly refurbished restaurant.
LUX: What’s your collaborative working process like when you’re working with another chef?
Alain Ducasse: It is going to be a four hands dinner, with our two executive chefs. We will brainstorm all together to create a special experience. The dinner will be composed of a 5-course menu with a wine pairing and it is going to be awesome.
LUX: How are you incorporating sustainable practices into your kitchens?
Alain Ducasse: By changing all of our habits. I always say that a habit is a bad habit. More than ever, we have to change the way we work to take care of the planet and the health of human being.
I relaunched my restaurant Alain Ducasse at The Plaza Athénée five years ago with a new concept called naturalness, based on vegetable, cereals with less salt, less fat, less sugar, and less animal protein but better ones from sustainable fish.
It is very important to act and show to the industry that we are able to create differently, even in a three Michelin-starred restaurant.
LUX: What has been your most memorable dining experience to date and why?
Alain Ducasse: It will be my next discovery for sure, the one I don’t know yet. I am an eager traveller, always looking for new discoveries. The world is full of talents, waiting to be discovered. It is not only about French cuisine and French chefs. You can find talented chefs all over the world, with multiple ways to express themselves.
LUX: What’s next for you?
Alain Ducasse: The next steps are the development of Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse in Asia, and my schools “Ecole Ducasse” too. We are launching an exceptional new campus in Meudon specialising in culinary arts which will welcome students from September 2020, with an English education. This Paris campus will be ultra-contemporary; a customised school with the aim of teaching and promoting world-renowned gastronomic expertise.
Alain Ducasse & Jason Atherton’s charity dinner for Hospital Action will take place on 22 April at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. For more information on Hospitality Action visit: hospitalityaction.org.uk