NEW VIDEO: Alain Ducasse, Alain Ducasse at the Meurice Hotel, Paris

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 24th April 2018

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

Alain Ducasse is a French-born chef and runs a number of restaurants including Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester which holds three stars in the Michelin Guide UK 2018.

Since he won his first three Michelin-star accolade at the age of 33, Alain Ducasse has dominated not only French classical and modern cuisine but the Michelin Guide and the global restaurant scene. With his energetic and precise approach, he has influenced a generation of chefs. The Staff Canteen, meets the man himself at his two-starred Restaurant le Meurice Alain Ducasse in Paris. 

Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse 'ikejime' line caught sea bass on the scale%2C artichokes%2C rocket salad low res

'ikejime' line caught sea bass on

the scale,

artichokes, rocket salad

Legendary chef. Michelin star master. Entrepreneur. Visionary. Truth teller. Influencer. Pioneer. Space cuisine creator. 

There are many superlatives to describe acclaimed Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse - and most are insufficient to represent the first person to receive three Michelin stars for two different restaurants in the same year. 

When we meet at his two-starred restaurant in le Meurice Hotel in Paris, a stunning place overlooking the Jardins des Tuileries on the Rue de Rivoli, he says: “I am the one who carries the vision for my establishments, and particularly for the restaurant le Meurice Alain Ducasse.” 

Alain made history by being the first chef to own restaurants carrying three Michelin Stars in three cities. He currently has 25 restaurants across 7 countries and is set to expand his empire further, with two restaurants in Macau, on the south coast of China. He so far holds a total of 19 Michelin stars, three of which are held at The Dorchester in London.

But how do you create such a successful empire, where do you start? Alain says ‘you have to be sure you want to become a chef’ and even though the trade can bring a lot of pleasure it’s one of ‘hard work, discipline and rigour’.

“Success,” he says, “is to master one’s passion, what one wants to do. Awards and accolades don’t interest me. What interests me is what I will do tomorrow, it’s the pleasure I will have discovering a new city, making a new restaurant and continuing to give energy to the restaurants which already exist. My success is to please myself every day. It may be a selfish answer but that’s what it is.”

Born in the town of Castelsarrasin in South West France, Alain started his culinary career at Pavillon Landais restaurant in Soustons. This was followed by Michel Guérard’s restaurant in Eugénie-les-Bains while also working for Gaston Lenôtre during the winter months. He went on to work at Moulin de Mougins under legendary chef Roger Vergé, creator of Cuisine du Soleil, and learned the Provençal cooking methods for which he was later known. 

The legendary chef reflects on his early influences, saying: “I was 12 when I decided I wanted to cook and it’s my grandmother’s cooking which inspired me.”

Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse MEURICE 23 03 16 photo de pmonetta 8248 low res
Alain Ducasse in the dining room at le Meurice

But it is Alain Chapel who he cites as his biggest influence, it may be 40 years ago when he trained with him in Mionnay, a three Michelin- star restaurant in the north of Lyon, in France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, but it was that first experience which has stayed with him. 

“He had such a strong requirement in the selection of produce,” he explained. “Then after good produce, the right seasoning, the right cooking time, the perfect preparation, the right side dish, the right sauce, the perfect harmony of wines, and served at the right temperature.” 

Speaking of his culinary journey, he says: “It’s actually a simple story, but one of extreme requirements and rigour, it’s [our approach] still what we do today everywhere in our restaurants, but particularly at le Meurice.”

Since September 2013, Alain Ducasse and his team at le Meurice restaurant have created a cuisine which aims to preserve the authentic taste of exceptional produce, until it reaches the plate. Alain believes that ‘before cooking, there is nature and the product is the only truth’.

Sat at the magnificent Chef’s Table in the heart of le Meurice Hotel, Mr Ducasse reflects that ‘le Meurice Alain Ducasse is one of the most beautiful and radiant rooms in Paris’.

He says: “The venue is in harmony with the culinary story we are telling. We work with great consistency and in the end quality always pays off.”

Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse - Saddle of Venison 'grand Veneur'%2C squash low res

Saddle of Venison

'grand Veneur' and squash

This certainly rings true with regards to Alain’s culinary approach. Each dish articulates the truth of the product around which it is built and executed by a cleverly orchestrated technique. This quest for genuine flavour is carried out by the cook and farmer together with respect for the product.

Excellence, elegance and experience personify his menu and since 2016 it has been under the watchful eye of executive chef Jocelyn Herland, who spent eight years at the helm of Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. Alain’s cuisine philosophy is demonstrated in every dish across all of his restaurants, such as his turbot, bitter chicory, tuber melanosporum and his signature dish: the cookpot, where vegetables are roasted and caramelised. The cookpot is a common theme among Alain’s restaurants around the world – the use of local, seasonal vegetables for balanced, respectful and environmentally-friendly cuisine. 

Seasonality remains a strong focus for le Meurice and Alain says: “Inspiration is the season. I ask myself: What do I have? What can I do? What will I do with them?”

There has been a conscious effort to curtail the amount of animal protein consumed across all his restaurants, and where meat and fish do appear on the menu, it is sustainably sourced.

“Proteins will be less important,” says Alain. “There will be more vegetables, more grains, less fat, less salt, less sugar. A cuisine of excellence – that is what we do at le Meurice.”

Not content with conquering 7 countries, Alain set his sights even higher … space. And since 2004, astronauts are able to eat food that’s out of this world after he has sent roast quail, lemon confit and tuna casseroles to those based on the International Space Station.

Despite this futuristic approach, Alain’s philosophy is very much focused on the here and now. He says: “We must be today's cuisine, not yesterdays and certainly not tomorrow’s because we do not know it yet.”

By Emma Harrison

@canteenemma

More images from Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse:

Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse Jerusalem artichokes from Pays de la Loire%2C tuber melanosporum MEURICE 18 01 18 ®pmonetta 2728 (1) low res
Jerusalem artichokes from Pays de la Loire, tuber melanosporum -  ®pmonetta 

MEURICE 23 03 16 photo de pmonetta 8270 low res
Alain Ducasse, Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse, Paris - photo de pmonetta

MEURICE 23 03 16 ®pmonetta 6955 low res
 Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse, Paris - ®pmonetta

In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 24th April 2018

NEW VIDEO: Alain Ducasse, Alain Ducasse at the Meurice Hotel, Paris

IN ASSOCIATION WITH