Alain Ducasse on 10 years at The Dorchester

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th October 2017

Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester is just one of his 26 restaurants around the world and it holds three of his 18 Michelin-stars.

This week he held a celebratory event to mark 10 years at The Dorchester and the room was bursting with accolades as some of the world’s best chefs gathered to mark this significant milestone.

Gordon Ramsay and Alain Ducasse attend 10th anniversary of Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester

Gordon Ramsay & Alain Ducasse

at the 10th anniversary event

“It was a room full of stars,” quipped Mr Ducasse as he took a seat in The Dorchester’s impressive promenade the next morning.

Relaxed and eager to know when I would come to Paris he quickly reflected on his decade in London saying: “It seems a very short time, and the most difficult thing after ten years is to stay relevant.”

Indeed, with new restaurants opening every day in the capital, as a chef you cannot rest on your laurels even if you have retained three stars for the past eight years! But he believes that what they are doing today is at a higher level than when they opened in 2007.

“It’s important to innovate and never stay static,” he explained. “We want to continue to surprise and whenever we feel we have arrived that’s not good – we must keep pushing and moving forward.”

Consistency is the key word for him when asked about his ten years at The Dorchester, and he says it’s his team which achieves this. He believes it’s important to stimulate his chefs and push them beyond their comfort zone and he has the same view on the restaurant itself as he looks to upgrade the interior next year.

“It’s going to be an evolution, not a revolution but an evolution.”

The current executive chef at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester is Jean-Philippe Blondet and before him was Jocelyn Herland. Between them they have maintained the standard of which diners expect from such a celebrated chef – by no means an easy task.

“It’s important to nurture the chefs, I’m the one who really gives the direction for the cuisine here and the vision for the restaurant itself but the chefs interpret that vision and I want to help them to grow.

Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse

coffret ganache praline lacte 21 pieces

“Once you have tasted it, it’s difficult to go back!”

He explained: “It’s a passion about chocolate that I’ve had for a long time, 41 years ago I was a commis at the chocolate station in the pastry section at Lenôtre and it became a passion. I specialised in chocolate in Lyon with Maurice Bernachon an artisan-chocolatier. This experience stayed in my mind for years and one day I wanted to do something around chocolate.

“One day I made the decision with our former corporate pastry chef Nicolas Berger to do something and focus on chocolate.”

There are only five artisan chocolate producers in France including Alain Ducasse and from the beginning he wanted to master the art of chocolate, travelling the world to find the best beans. And he believes his chocolate is very different to what the competition is doing.

“It’s important for me to keep the original flavours of the beans, we apply a lot of attention to the roasting and how the beans are processed. This process is adapted depending on the beans as we try hard to keep that original flavour.”

“Jean-Phillippe started as a commis 13 years ago and he has continued up the ladder within the brigade – he has an amazing potential to grow and that’s what I’m interested in, helping chefs grow within the company.”

Alain Ducasse & Jean Philippe Blondet ®pmonetta

Alain Ducasse & Jean Philippe Blondet

®pmonetta

He added: “Most of our chefs stay for a long time.”

Alain Ducasse’s kitchens have seen some of the best of British pass through them and they have now made a name for themselves and their cuisine in their own right; from Scotland’s Tom Kitchin who worked with Mr Ducasse in Monte Carlo to Clare Smyth who recently opened Core and cites Ducasse as one of the ‘greatest mentors’  in her life.

ducasse quote 2

“We teach the basics of French cuisine, the techniques, and from that chefs will interpret it and be influenced. It’s interesting and for example Tom Kitchin is in Scotland doing a very personal cuisine and it’s amazing to see that.”

He added: “In the UK there’s a great dynamic in the up and coming chefs, there is a lot of talent in London but also in all of the European capitals and all over the world. There are no boundaries or borders for talent.

“It’s not only in fine dining, this talent goes across all types of restaurants and it’s interesting to see such a personal expression from the chefs. It’s important for the industry and they follow a trend of being more local, seasonal and mindful of our resources.

“It’s a message I’ve been trying to put across for many years and I can feel it’s becoming more and more recognised.”

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester Main Dining Room

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester

Main Dining Room

Beginning his career at the age of 16, the kitchens in France were very competitive in the 70s and I wondered with the luxury of experience which he now has, what advice would he give himself as a young chef if he could?

“Work faster and better!” He says. “It’s demanding and you have to understand you have to go through the discipline and rigorous working environment.”

He added: “When I started cuisine was under the spotlight, people were starting to pay more and more attention to it. I wanted to succeed and the 70s I feel was the turning point in the revolution of cuisine in general.”

To celebrate ten years there is a special menu at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester which ‘reflects the restaurant’s diverse and rich heritage while sharing a renewed outlook towards the future’. It includes hand-dived sea scallop, citrus, caviar; the Native lobster, ratte potatoes, wild mushrooms and the Volaille de Bresse, Albufera sauce and to finish, a playful Iced chestnut and lime dessert.

For Mr Ducasse there is not one dish he would like to say is his favourite.

“I wouldn’t pick one dish, and I try hard not to have signature dishes in my restaurants because I don’t want to be comfortable. In a way it prevents chefs from innovating and creating new dishes.”

He added: “What I prefer are the seasonal dishes, at the moment we have game and scallops have arrived, the mushrooms – all amazing produce. I enjoy the best of what nature has to offer.”

Native lobster, celery & homardine sauce ®pmonetta

Native lobster, celery & homardine

sauce ®pmonetta

Maintaining so many stars, in so many restaurants, requires a high level of consistency and organisation, and with it an unquestionable amount of pressure. The Michelin Guide has been criticised lately for the ‘pressure’ its stars place on chefs and restaurants most notably Sébastien Bras declared he didn’t want to be included in the guide and Andre Chiang followed suit.

Alain Ducasse jokes: “I share the pressure with all the collaborators in a very generous way!”

“There is only a small percentage of chefs who are trying to move away from the stars, it’s a very personal decision and I prefer to be in the Michelin Guide rather than not in it.”

And finally, in terms of Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, he says ‘it’s not about following trends and fashion it’s about creating their own codes’ and achieving success he explains begins every day.

“Every morning is a new day, we still have to push to reach that level of excellence and we never think it is a given. We must be better than yesterday, every day. This must run through the whole team from the commis, to the head sommelier to the chefs - everyone must have the same outlook and objectives.”

By Cara Houchen

@canteencara

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th October 2017

Alain Ducasse on 10 years at The Dorchester