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Hélène Darroze: “Long Covid Wrecked My Taste"

06 September, 2021
A woman in a warm restaurant setting.

Jérôme Galland

As our conversation rolls on we briefly discuss her mentor Alain Ducasse’s parting of ways with the Hôtel Plaza Athénée after 21 years – “I don’t understand why the Plaza wants to lose this philosophy and approach, which for me, is unique in Paris,” she says. Originally, Darroze worked mainly in the office of Ducasse’s Le Louis XV restaurant in Monaco before he spotted her talent and brought her permanently into the kitchen. She eventually left to run her family’s restaurant in Villeneuve-de-Marsan in southwest France.

Since then, of course, she’s won a plethora of accolades, including being made a member of the French Legion of Honour and, in 2015, winning the title of World’s Best Female Chef at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Does she think much has changed for women in the industry in the six years since?

A restaurant dining room in warm colours.

Photo: Jérôme Galland

“Things are changing, but in a very slow way,” she says. ‘The biggest change has come from the point of view of external people: male chefs and the public. They realised that there is a place for women in the industry. What for me has to change more and more is the vision women have of themselves. It’s possible to have children, to have a family life, etc. doing this job. Unfortunately, women are not convinced of that: a little more and more, but not enough.”

As we wrap up, with Darroze on her way to get ready for lunch service, I ask whether she envisages opening another place in the UK, outside London perhaps? But the lingering effects of Covid mean she still gets very tired and wants to cut down on travelling if anything, plus she wants to spend more time with her daughters. “Paris, London, Provence, it’s already a lot,” she says.

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