Alain Ducasse’s superior reputation and innovative French cuisine along with his indisputable influence over today’s generation of chefs and restaurateurs around the world are among the many reasons that deserve to be acknowledged by the Diners Club International Lifetime Achievement Award, part of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna.
Since being awarded three Michelin stars at the age of 33 for Le Louis XV at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, Ducasse, “a visionary chef” and “avant-gardiste” according to his pupils chef Carlo Cracco and chef Jean-Louis Nomicos, has imagined and multiplied beyond imagination his cuisine and work. His restaurants are temples of French gastronomy that recognize exceptional produce, Mediterranean cookery with simple ingredients and the rigor of classic French cuisine. The French Riviera had a major influence on his dishes, he was one of the first to consider vegetables as main ingredients rather than a side course. Of course, not just any vegetable or any ingredient: “Each good product, grown with love and respect, in its distinctive land, has an incomparable flavour. Without which a chef is nothing”, said Ducasse. Also, adds Nomicos, Ducasse was very keen in learning from other cultures, as he stated himself: “My roots carry me, but do not tie me down”.
“He took his cuisine to an international level, anywhere in the world”, says chef Davide Oldaniof the D’O, yet another one of his pupils. 21 Michelins stars, a school, books, a presence in 26 countries around the globe with his cuisine, he has built an empire. “Expecting always the best from his collaborators”, Cracco remembers from his years of working with him.
One of the most important words to be used when talking about Ducasse is legacy and he says it himself: “ For me, transmission is a fundamental value”. Cracco knew that he wanted him and everyone he worked with to become a reference in food, even if they went their separate ways. The term Génération Ducasse points out how much he influenced his collaborators. Many have come to great lengths to have the privilege to work with him and learn his culinary philosophy. At the time, one of the things that struck the young Cracco the most was Ducasse’s ability to create a strong team that allowed space for competition and valued everyone’s opinion. Each one of his pupils was impressed by his perfectionism, never a mistake, and Cracco added “after all it’s the smallest detail that can make or ruin a dish in Haute Cuisine.” What entails perfection in Haute Cuisine is also the construction of the menu, which according to Oldani, Alain Ducasse chose to build from the main course up to the appetizer. And as Nomicos adds “always taking the time needed, giving it his all”.
Another word that defines Alain Ducasse is certainly generosity. In 2012, upon the occasion of Le Louis VX’s 25th anniversary, Chef Ducasse’s generosity transpired from every detail of the grandiose the event hosting more than 400 guests, among which 240 chefs from 25 countries. A testament to how many chefs have been influenced by the man celebrated for modernising French cuisine and how many came to enjoy the staged marketplace used to exhibit the exquisite Mediterranean produce. Chef Cracco remembers the event as being “paradise of earth, land of the plenty”. Chef Nomicos recalls it as being a unique gastronomy event, a proof that cuisine is “nothing more than sharing, devotion to our customers, and Alain Ducasse is the Maitre of all this!”
Paying tribute to his forebears upon accepting the award, Alain Ducasse shows us once again the importance of legacy: “My first thought goes to Paul Bocuse, this award’s very first recipient. Through him, I also think of the generations of chefs who have preceded me and to whom I feel the heir and successor. At the same time, I still feel like a young man and remain much more interested by the work to be done thank by that already accomplished.”
*This is the second of the awards given out at TheWorld's 50 Best Restaurants awards, previously Chef Nadia Santini was awarded the Veuve Clicquot World's Best Female Chef 2013, read the inteview.