Jean-Philippe Blondet, executive chef, Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 18th October 2017

Jean-Philippe Blondet has trained with legendary French chef Alain Ducasse for over a decade. Having worked at Alain's restaurants in London, Hong Kong and Monaco, before joining the team at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester in January 2013. 

After the departure of Jocelyn Herland, Jean-Philippe became executive chef in January 2016. We spoke to Jean-Philippe about his relationship with Alain Ducasse, what it's like to be a chef in a three Michelin starred restaurant, and the "feeling of the moment" that influences his food style.

What inspired you to become a chef?

Saute gourmand of Lobster by Jean-Philippe Blondet, executive chef at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester ®pierremonetta
Sauté gourmand of lobster
(Photography by Pierre Monetta)

As far as I can remember I wanted to become a chef. I never doubted this in the least. I grew up in South of France, in Nice, and even at a very young age loved going to food markets, seeing the produce and discussing with the stall owners.

At home, I was very fortunate as my family always cooked with incredibly fresh produce. I believe these experiences kick-started my passion for food. I originally was determined to become a pastry chef but at around the age or 14 or 15, I started a hospitality course and this changed my direction. I decided instead to focus on cooking as I felt I was able to express myself more freely in cuisine than with pastry.

How did you meet Alain Ducasse?

Alain Ducasse is a very highly regarded chef in France and I had put it into my mind that if I was going to work for anyone, it was going to be for him. On the day of my graduation, I contacted the human resources team of DUCASSE Paris and everything moved forward from there. School finished at the end of June and by July, I had my first job interview with Alain Ducasse and Pascal Féraud, now the Executive Chef of the company, for the restaurant Spoon at the Sanderson Hotel in London. It was a crucial opportunity at the start of my career so I was understandably nervous. I was then invited to spend the following day in the kitchen and started a month later!

You have worked alongside him for many years, how would you describe your relationship?

It’s a very nice relationship – more than 13 years of collaboration! I like to joke that it’s easy because I’m alone most of the time, but it is more complex than that. There are two different aspects to it; the first is that although Mr Ducasse is not in the kitchen anymore, he acts as the Artistic Director and I take his vision and interpret it to my style, the London audience and the seasonality of the produce. Secondly, I would say my “feeling of the moment” has a lot to do with it as well.

Halibut, oyster & seaweed by Jean-Philippe Blondet, executive chef at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester ®pmonetta 7393
Halibut, oyster and seaweed
(Photography by Pierre Monetta)

My emotions stimulate the creative process, and the dishes are created thanks to the combination of these factors. At the restaurant, before a dish is ready to be placed on the menu, we work closely with the wider team to ensure each dish works symbiotically with the front-of-house and sommelier. A dish can be tested between 5 and 40 times, before it is presented to Mr Ducasse.

You have worked in restaurants around the world, would you say that this has influenced your food style?

Having had the opportunity of working in destinations like Monte Carlo, Paris and Hong Kong, it opens your mind I believe. It is a privilege for me to learn about cuisines at their places of origin. This naturally influences my work.

Not only have I learned about the cuisines of other cultures but I have also seen how the restaurant industry operates differently from country to country. This has also influenced my management style and how I run a team. I’d like to think my management style takes different elements from each country I’ve worked in.

Do you have a favourite dish on the menu at the moment?

One of my signature dishes: Halibut, oyster and seaweed is a very special dish to me. I say this because the dish is a combination of elements from the U.K. and France – Brittany in particular. It brings back lots of memories for me as my grandmother used to combine many different flavours in her cooking – sausages, Roscoff onions and oysters. When I created this dish, I really tried to bring French and British inspirations together, combining the ingredients from both to create something delicious and unique.

Info bar

Dream restaurant – 

My dream restaurant would incorporate three very different concepts in one place; a larger brasserie, a small fine dining space, and a lively bar. Ideally, my dream restaurant would be in a big city, with a well-established and dynamic food scene and a variety of different influences and cultures coming together – somewhere like London, Singapore or New York. The brasserie would be casual, and serve traditional simple homemade fare. I see it as the heart of the restaurant. The fine dining concept would be a little different, and much smaller than most restaurants. I'm thinking of a maximum of 4 tables. It would be so immensely popular that it would be filled up 2 years in advance, though, I think that might be every restaurant owner’s perfect scenario. Lastly there would be the bar, a hive of excitement, with great cocktails, amazing music, and a chic but funky undertone.

Dream Brigade – 

That’s very simple, it is the brigade that I have with me now. My team is so committed and dedicated. I feel very lucky to have them with me on a daily basis.

How does it feel to be one of the select few restaurants in the UK with the coveted three Michelin stars?

 It’s an amazing feeling, but you can never take it for granted. We have extremely high standards and all our guests deserve the three star experience. The pressure to provide this consistency every day is always there, and it goes for everything – the quality of the food, the service. It is the most difficult thing; from checking the quality of the produce we receive to the final plate sent to each guest throughout a 70 cover service. Every day is different and you need to be innovative as well, you need to continually keep pushing. On one hand, it’s very nice, I’ve just achieved one of my dreams to become a three Michelin star chef, but on the other hand, there is that pressure to stay at that level.

Can you tell me about your daily responsibilities at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester?

As I previously mentioned, checking the quality of the produce and building the relationships with the suppliers are very important. I spend a lot of time speaking to my staff about ingredients, our philosophy and cuisine, but, also about their life, which is very important. We spend the majority of our time together – I spend much more time with my team than I do with my family! The brigade is big; we have 24 chefs in total. So my time is split between the daily operations, my team, and creating and implementing new menus. As we create new dishes all the time, it is important for me to share my knowledge with my brigade, which ensures we feel secure in everything we do.

What advice would you have for a young chef looking to achieve the same success?

Firstly, it would be to take your time. Nowadays, I see young chefs who are very impatient and want to progress too fast. Progress is good, however progressing too quickly is not! Some people will need more time than others to fully master a position before moving up the ladder. It is very important to have the right foundations to be able to succeed. It’s like a building, if you do not build on solid foundations, the building will collapse. Take the time, step by step, and don’t be afraid to put in hard work and commitment. If you are not fully committed to the job, it will become too difficult. Passion is key as it will make your job easier. You need to always be positive too - when you have a problem, there is always a solution.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to continue my journey at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. When Jocelyn Herland left, it became my turn to step up to the challenge of Executive Chef. After 13 years of working hard and finally achieving my dream of 3 Michelin stars, I’m very happy. I am looking forward to the year ahead with my team, as we have lots of creative ideas and projects we will be working on.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 18th October 2017

Jean-Philippe Blondet, executive chef, Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester