What Chef Alain Ducasse humbly calls his ‘hobby’ has earned him 18 Michelin stars. Find out how the 61-year-old French star chef stays at the top of his game every single day, with every single dish. By Shikha Pushpan
One of the most celebrated chefs in the world, Ducasse is among the last standing members of the traditional school of cooking. He says, “I don’t think technical innovations are the future of cuisine. The real challenge is to celebrate the genuine taste of nature: to respect it, to concentrate it, to express it.” That said, the chef makes sure he tours a city comprehensively to get acquainted with the local produce before the opening of his restaurants, and takes this time-honoured approach to his guest’s table too, minus the frills of the modern cuisine. “Complexity must remain in the kitchen; simplicity must appear on the plate. In the end, the dish must be clear to the eater: each ingredient must be recognisable and the various tastes must be in harmony.” So what comes first—the ingredient or the story behind the dish? “The story behind the produce,” the chef says, adding that the inspiration mostly comes from the produce. “Be it a humble vegetable like carrot or turnip or a precious truffle, the produce always conveys a wealth of sentiments.”
In the industry for close to five decades, Chef Ducasse now runs an empire of more than 40 restaurants around the world, including Paris, Monaco, London, Doha, Las Vegas, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. However, there is one binding force that transcends these geographic borders— “It is the produce before the chef that takes centre stage. I spent my childhood on a farm in southwest France, eating what we cultivated, and this direct link between nature and food shaped my approach to cuisine forever.”
Ducasse received his first Michelin star at the age of 33 for his restaurant, Le Louis XV in Monaco . With 18 Michelin stars between 23 restaurants, he is now second only to Chef Joël Robuchon, who is at 21 stars. “Michelin stars you can live without, but you live better with [them],” Ducasse quips.
THE PERFECT SET
According to Ducasse, the table is the most civilised place in the world. So, what is the ideal plate for the chef? “The one which fits my mood at this very moment. The one in which I can feel the emotion and personality the cook has put as the main ingredient. The one which opens a window to the local terroir and season. The one which is perfectly accompanied
by the right wine.”