Chef Icon Alain Ducasse: The Multitalent
Alain Ducasse in front of the »Hotel de Paris«.
© Getty Images
Cooking, Alain Ducasse once said, was absolute craftsmanship, with the ingredients at the centre of this craft. There was no room in his kitchen for airs and graces. It was with this simple recipe that the 64-year-old Frenchman managed, over four decades, to become one of the world’s most successful gastro-entrepreneurs.
The term entrepreneur is key because the times when he manned the stoves himself are long gone. Whether he cooked himself was, he opined, of secondary importance because his head chefs were capable of that, too. Instead, Alain Ducasse is a visionary, a doer. He employs 2,000 people across the globe, achieving healthy turnovers and profits.
His Michelin-starred restaurants alone – Le Louis XV in Monte Carlo, Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester in London and, until May 2021, Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris, generate profits in the region of 20 million euros per year with their crossover of French and Mediterranean cuisine.
The Brand «Alain Ducasse«
Ducasse, a country boy from Castelsarrasin in southwest France, learnt his trade from scratch at his parents’ farm: plucking geese, cleaning vegetables, gutting fish. It was at the farm that he discovered his love for authentic produce. He then trained with the greats of that time: Michel Guérard, Roger Vergé and Alain Chapel, first as an apprentice, then as sous chef. Alain Chapel taught him French classics like Bresse chicken, sauces, foie gras. Vergé added the lighter Mediterranean touch of herbs, courgette flowers and olive oil.
Ever since, the Mediterranean element has been central to Ducasse’s cuisine brute. He first showed his mettle in 1981 when he became head chef at La Terrasse in Juan-les Pins on the Côte d’Azur at the tender age of 25. Three years later he received his first two Michelin stars. In 1988, Ducasse signed a contract with Prince Rainier of Monaco who had offered him the role of running the Le Louis XV restaurant at his Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo.
Both hotel and restaurant are owned by the principality and Ducasse was hired under one condition: to achieve three Michelin stars within five years. Just 33 months later Ducasse had met this contractual challenge – while simultaneously developing a profitable concept: take a first class hotel, make this hotel pay for kitchen, dining room and staff and charge a consultancy fee for yourself. Ducasse then successfully replicated this concept at the Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris and in 2008 at Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester in London.
By now, Alain Ducasse is the creative director and mastermind behind more than 30 restaurants across the globe. He sets the pace, the rhythm and the direction. He alone decides on ingredients, recipes, the style of table settings, the crockery, the décor of each establishment and every detail down to the menu design. This means that the standards at Morpheus in Macau are as exacting as those at Spoon in Paris or at Idam in Quatar.
But not only that, Ducasse also nurtures new talent in order to proliferate his own philosophy of haute cuisine à la Ducasse: new chefs are trained and immersed in the Ducasse DNA in the three cookery schools he runs in France.
There is no such thing as standstill
Ducasse has never been short of ideas. He authored 20 cookery books and his Grand Livre de Cuisine is a reference of French cookery for chefs around the world. In 2006, he reinvented what astronauts eat. Instead of subsisting on unimaginative blandness, the researchers at the International Space Station enjoy lamb shoulder with sage, Breton lobster or boeuf bourguignon.
All these dishes were developed in collaboration with the National Centre for Space Studies in Toulouse. Ducasse also bought two country mansions in Provence, France, and turned them into boutique hotels. He presides over the Les Collectionneurs booking platform that represents 585 top European hotels and restaurants.
In 2005, together with the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, he initiated Goût de France, an event that sees chefs around the world present typically French menus on the same day.
Setbacks are incentives
Ducasse accepted that he had to lose a star here and there on his way to the top – and noted when they were won back. He also accepted the loss of the license to run the Jules Verne restaurant at the Eiffel Tower. Losing a star, he said, was an incentive to do better. In the meantime, he has a very different perspective Paris landmark.
In 2018, Ducasse entered the coffee business. His Manufacture de Café now operates successfully in Paris and London. His speciality is Yemeni coffee, made from Arabica beans grown at an altitude of 2,300 metres / 7,546 feet in Yemen. Regarding the pandemic, Ducasse said: “I didn’t have to give up any of my establishments.“
On the contrary, he invested and created the delivery service Ducasse chez moi and Naturaliste Paris. He spent 50,000 Euros on aerosol filtration at his restaurant Allard which allowed him to operate at 80% capacity and remain open. He also added five further shops to his chocolate empire – there now are 28 of them. “A further ten are in the pipeline,“ Ducasse says.
Once the world opens up again, Ducasse intends to “make all the restaurants into ultimate must-visit destinations once again.“ We can only say, “Bonne chance, maître!“
Eating at Allain Ducasse
Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse***
Hôtel de Paris, Place du Casino
98000 Monaco • T: +377 98 068864
Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester***
The Dorchester Hotel 53 Park Lane, Mayfair
W1K 1QA London • T: +44 207 6298866
Shortly after opening in 2009, the restaurant received two Michelin stars. The third followed a year later. Fish and crustacea are specialities here. The wine list is impressive, too.
BBR by Alain Ducasse
1 Beach Road Singapore
189673 Singapore • T: +65 6337 1886
The essence of Portuguese, Spanish and Italian cuisines is celebrated in a relaxed atmosphere. Tip: reserve a table in the open kitchen.
Palais Brongniart, 25 Place de la Bourse
75002 Paris • T: +33 1 83922030
The Spoon in Paris was Alain Ducasses‘ first
concept restaurant, offering minimalist décor and fusion cooking. By now there are outlets
from London to Mauritius.
Alain Ducasse at morpheus
Morpheus at City of Dreams
Estrada do Istmo, Macau • T: +853 8868 3432
In 2019, this restaurant designed by Jouin Manku manged to make the shortlist of the vaunted Restaurant & Bar Design Awards – you can enjoy Ducasse’s food in beautiful surroundings.
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