Alain Ducasse spent in the kitchen most of his 58 years. 21 Michelin stars, 26 restaurants, books, websites, schools, projects with the European Space Agency, and he still feels the drive to do more. The French Chef has had a great influence on international gastronomy. He anticipated trends, created new paths, and trained the new generation of chefs. He built a restaurant empire that combines talent with business. No matter what, he still says: ”My parents didn’t want me to become a chef. Maybe they were right.”
Fine Dining Lovers had the opportunity to meet with the chef at the Trattoria Toscana’s 10th year celebration. The restaurant belongs to a luxury resort in the Maremma region of Tuscany - L’Andana - the only restaurant owned by the Ducasse group in Italy. A contemporary “osteria” that serves traditional Tuscan recipes: a format that the Chef liked so much to offer it as well in Montecarlo.
You own brasseries and restaurants, pastry shops and cooking schools. What’s behind this success?
I wouldn’t talk about success: maybe that’s still in the future. You need a good staff. Each place tells a different story: the vision is global, the expression local. They are glocal. Keywords are local and seasonal, territory and what it can offer.
Are there other type of places you would like to work on?
Rather than a new restaurant, I am more interested in the art of sharing. I would like to convey my knowledge, savoir faire, things that are the fundaments of my cooking. There are new young talented chefs all over the world: if you are an expert, you should share your knowledge with them. This can be applied to anything. Like in music, theory is the same, it’s the other stuff that changes. This would be a big project I would aspire to.
Who according to you is someone talented people should know?
Dan Barber. He will get more and more successful. He goes beyond the concept of “local”: his restaurant Blue Hill is an hour forty drive from New York and produces 85% of what’s in the kitchen. He is starting to get acknowledged, he doesn’t try to though, it’s not like he goes to parties to be seen. He should be a star already: he is able to tell a story, convey a message.
What do you think of the rise of veganism and vegetarianism?
On the 27th of May, 1987, I’ve prepared a vegetarian menu at the Louis XV, in Monaco, Menu du Jardin de Provence. 27 years later people think it’s new. The keyword in my kitchen was and is: vegetables, seasonal, and local. Lots of vegetables, both cooked and raw, sustainable fish, less animal proteins and fat, less salt, less sugar. I was in New York a few days ago, and during an interview they’ve asked me if Nordic countries had influenced France when it came to its interest for vegetables. I smiled and didn’t even answer. There is no merit: in Monaco, like anywhere in the Mediterranean, we can easily find fantastic resources. It’s completely different than Northern Europe!
What are your future projects?
I will be opening the Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée: poissons, légumes et céréales, in two months, in Paris. There will be many vegetables, but not only. I would like to go to new cities such as Peking and Mumbai. At least start there.
Do you have any plans to expand your empire in Latin America? There was a rumor about you and Alex Atala maybe opening a place together.
We were supposed to do it before the World Cup, in Sao Paolo, but we didn’t have enough time. I met with him and then went to Mistura, in Peru, to understand better the region: it’s very different from the rest of Latin America. There is a new generation, including chef Virgilio Martinez, led by the charismatic Acurio: great products, vast culinary knowledge, a real story behind it, it’s a very advanced country culinary speaking compared to the rest of Latin America. It’s rich in its biodiversity, shortly followed by Brazil with its seafood and land products. Nature is generous. The most interesting products are fish and vegetables from the Amazon: Atala realized that and worked on it. I foresee a great future for them.
If you were in charge of the culinary culture development in Europe what would you work on first?
Respect differences and nurture them. The EU should let us free to grow things the way we want to, keep doing buffalo mozzarella and cheese with raw milk. Freedom for each country, even a small country, to preserve their culture: opposite of what’s happening now. They want cheese to be the same everywhere, everything regulated, homogenous. A global vision shouldn’t cancel the local identity of a place. Slow Food should exist everywhere.