You have heard of the five-star hotel and the three-star restaurant, then meet Alain Ducasse to get more about these accolades. The 59-year old, Alain Ducasse, is a French chef who owns 23 restaurants in seven countries, which include two in London and 20 Michelin stars. Besides, Ducasse has written many cookbooks, runs many cookery schools, and in 2015, he created a menu for the International Space Station.
Ducasse’s obsession with perfection and other many aspects in his life can be traced back to 1984, a time when he was involved in a tragic light-aircraft crash while onboard with others in the French Alps. The Piper Aztec aircraft that the group was travelling in went down on the mountain, and killed four passengers. Luckily, Ducasse was thrown out of the cockpit and survived. Because of this incident, Ducasse believes that it helped him to discern between what is important in life and what is not. Besides, Ducasse believes that this tragic accident helped him to step back from the kitchen and open his eyes to the demands brought about by the vastness of the world.
Immaculately groomed and elegantly dressed, Ducasse looks more like a diplomat, a CEO, a global entrepreneur than a chef. Duncasse was brought up in south-west France on his parent’s farm. Dacasse once said that when you grow up in a place full of fields, poultry, and open-air-markets you are more likely to develop an instinct for quality food. At the age of 12, Dacasse decided that he wanted to become a chef, and at 16 he enrolled for his apprenticeship at one of the local restaurants. Nonetheless, it was until he worked with the great Alain Chapel, Mionnay that he finally realized his destiny. To this date, Dacasse refers considers Chapel as his spiritual master. According to him, Chapel taught him to respect and honor the produce, and offer it to the consumer in its perfect and pure state.
Shifting to the Cote d’Azur, Ducasse worked as the chef of the restaurant at the Hotel Juana, Juan-les-Pins where he was awarded two Michelin stars in 1985. Two years later, Ducasse was offered a chance by the Hotel de Paris to run the famous ornate Louis XV restaurant. While signing the contract, Ducasse agreed to a seemingly impossible clause that required him to win a three Michelin in a period of three years. Ducasse did it by detoxing the French haute cookery and riddled it of most of its excesses. As a result, his cuisine had less butter and cream, and became more reliant on simple flavorings such as lemon, seal salt, extra virgin oil, and herbs.
Some critics then decried Ducasse’s obsession of rustic Mediterranean flavors, but those in favor were the majority. Following this achievement, the young and ambitious chef took over the three-starred Perisian hotel that was previously managed by the great Joel Robuchon. After just eight months into his reign, Alain Ducasse was awarded with its three michelin stars. When Ducasse decided to relocate his Parisian restaurant into the luxurious hotel plaza Athenee in 2000, it was graced by the Michelin Guide with its highest accolade in just after less than five months after its opening. Nonetheless, it was not all good news. At this time, Michelin stripped a star from the Le Louis XV, despite the fact that the menu, chef, the standards, and the waiting staff had remained unchanged. Ducasse believes that this demotion was meant as a sign to him to slow down, but he remained unmoved because besides the Michelin; there are many Guides in the world. But when the third star was finally reinstated in 2003, Ducasse felt that an injustice had been corrected.
Presently, Ducasse hardly spends enough time in the kitchens as he used in the past. Those are days long gone. He admits that he currently spends little time cooking. Instead, Ducasse admits to have become more of a chef-creator who generates ideas and leaves them to execute by his finely tuned and carefully selected team. Particularly, Ducasse believes that most of his cooking is done in the head. The real secret behind Ducasse’s success is the caliber of chefs he attracts and maintains, including Nice XV, who has worked with him since 1980.
Ducasse is considered a guru and a genius by many, including UK’s culinary empire-founder, Gordon Ramsay. Ramsay admits to have been looking at Dacasse for inspiration, because of his consistency is amazing. Following his reputation, Ducasse has found time to add on his hotels by acquiring by acquiring three more prestigious country hotels in Province, one in Tuscany and the other in Basque country. Besides, he is also the president of the charming private restaurant group, The Chateaux et Hotels de France, officiates over a cooking school, an industry training centre, and a publishing press.
Apart from heavily investing in Europe, Ducasse is currently venturing in the Japan hospitality industry. He exclaims that it would be difficult to be indifferent to the Japanese way of doing things. But he thinks that the Japanese culture is a different culture where you need to learn all you have previously learnt. He further admits that the Japanese civilization is a great intellectual challenge and an interesting sensual adventure. Already, Ducasse’s Benoit in Tokyo is doing good business, and his big hope is now on the fine-dining restaurant, Beige. According to Duccase, Beige can follow in the footsteps of Benoit and grow to the same heights within the next few months.
Though what he has achieved is seemingly great, Ducasse believes that there are no limits to his mission to conquer the world. Notably, he admits to be focused more than ever to continue launching more of three-starred restaurants in other parts of the world in the coming months or years.