Life and miracles of Alain Ducasse

On Sunday 24th March, in Milan we’ll pay a tribute to the great French chef. His career, restaurants, famous quotes

04-03-2019 | 12:00
Alain Ducasse, 62. At Identità Milano on Sunday 2

Alain Ducasse, 62. At Identità Milano on Sunday 24th March we’ll pay a tribute to him (photo ducasse-paris.com)

On Sunday 24th March, at 1 pm, we’ll celebrate an important moment at Identità Milano: ex pupils Andrea BertonMassimo BotturaCarlo CraccoGennaro Esposito and Davide Oldani will get on stage to pay a tribute to the French chef, Alain Ducasse. «It’s the first time in 15 years that we homage a non-Italian chef», says Paolo Marchi, «We do so because, together with Ferran Adrià, Ducasse is the chef that has left the most important mark on the global restaurant scene in the past 30 years. Plus he’s a great admirer of Italy, of our cuisine, and products: an excellent reason to thank him».

It’s hard to describe the value of the most iconic cook of our times in just one article. The Generation Ducasse does not just include the cooks who have worked in his kitchen, but also those who admire him indirectly, from a distance. Like Niko Romito, perhaps the Italian who has best interpreted the entrepreneurial model of the chef from Aquitaine, based on training and diversification. Or Rene Redzepi, who has always admitted he grew up sighing in front of his cookbooks.

Much should be added about his many imitators, in Italy and abroad. For now we’ll illustrate the merits of the chef from Aquitaine, linking the essential moments of his incredible biography, listing all the restaurant he currently guides and selecting a series of famous quotes.

THE BIOGRAPHY 
1956
 The son of farmers, Alain Ducasse was born on the 13th of September 1956 in Castel-Sarrazin, a village with 1,000 inhabitants in the New Aquitaine, 100 km from the Spanish border.

1972 Ignoring his parents’ negative opinion, at 16 he started his cooking career. His first job was as an apprentice at Pavillon Landais in Souston, on the Atlantic Ocean, a few km from his hometown.

1975 After reaching adulthood, he trained with Michel Guérard, now 85, a giant of French cuisine and Nouvelle Cuisine, at the time holding 2 Michelin stars in the spa town of Eugénie-les-Bains (he received the third star two years later, in 1977). From his first master, he learnt the theory and practice of the cuisine minceur, the philosophy that aims to lighten-up the French fine dining classics of the post-Escoffier era. In the winter of those same years, his ambition led him to Normandy, where he spied the technique of the legendary pastry chef Gaston Lenôtre (1920-2009), the founder of the empire named after him and the creator of the gâteau opéra, an iconic dessert with chocolate, coffee and almond.

At 31 (photo Éric Préau)

At 31 (photo Éric Préau)

With Massimo Bottura in an archive photo 

With Massimo Bottura in an archive photo 

1977 He falls in love with Provencal cuisine while working next to another monument of French cuisine: Roger Vergé (1930-2015), in the kitchens of Le Moulin de Mougins, 3 stars in the inland of Cannes. The ambassador of the cuisine du soleil reinforced in Ducasse the desire to make traditional food lighter, making use of extra virgin olive oil, vegetables and fruit.

1978 The journey of young Alain in the shade of the authors of the manifesto of the Nouvelle Cuisine is completed with Alain Chapel (1937-1990), another 3-starred restaurant in Mionnay, just north of Lyon. Next to Chapel, the pupil’s attention to products grows. He tirelessly cooks Bresse chicken, Rabbit in cocotte, Blue lobster salads, pigeon and truffle, the emblems of an era.

1980 At 24 he becomes a chef for the first time. This happens at L’Amandier in Mougins, where Vergé calls him. Here he conquers his first Michelin star.

1983 He moves to La Terrasse, the restaurant inside Hotel Juana in Juan-les-Pins, on the French Riviera. In 1984, he already has two Michelin stars. «It’s here,» he later said, «that my parents finally accepted my vocation as chef».

1984 In August a tragic accident hinders his rise. His Piper-Aztec airplane, flying from Courchevel to Saint-Tropez, crashed against a mountain. He luckily bounced from the cabin and was the only one to survive; the other 4 passengers lost their lives. Lost for 6 hours in the woods, he spent one whole year in hospital, and was operated 13 times. «That episode», he explained, «taught me to tell what’s important and what isn’t. I decided to take one step away from the kitchen, and opened my eyes to all the world had to offer».

1987 He’s given the direction of Louis XV in Monte Carlo, which received 3 Michelin stars 33 months later, a lucky number: it was also Ducasse’s age at the time. In the kitchen there was one of his most important pupils, Franck Cerutti.

1995 He opens his first hotel, La Bastide des Moustiers, a countryside inn in his beloved Provence. One year later he opened a second one Abbaye de la Celle. They’re both still active.

1995 That same year he debuts in Paris too: he takes over the restaurant of a tired Joël Robuchon inside hotel du Parc in Rue Poincarè. «Since I have nothing to do in the middle of the week because the restaurant in Monaco is closed», he joked, «I decided to open in the Ville Lumière as well». After winning the general scepticism, 8 months later he receives 3 Michelin stars directly. In the kitchen there’s his enfant prodige Jean-François Piège. However, he also loses the third star in Monaco.

TITANS. With his colleague Joël Robuchon, who passed away on August 6th. "I loved his mix of freedom and rigour", Ducasse said (photo lechef.com)

TITANS. With his colleague Joël Robuchon, who passed away on August 6th. "I loved his mix of freedom and rigour", Ducasse said (photo lechef.com)

VIVE LA FRANCE. With Paul Bocuse and Jean-Pierre Troisgros (photo Gérard Collomb)

VIVE LA FRANCE. With Paul Bocuse and Jean-Pierre Troisgros (photo Gérard Collomb)

1998 The third star shines once again in Monaco. At Michelin they finally agree that the same chef can run two establishments with the maximum award at the same time. Ducasse is the second chef ever to do a 3+3. Before him, Eugénie Brazier, the legendary cook from Lyon. And after them, Joel RobuchonMarc VeyratThomas Keller and Yannick Allenò will also enter the lucky club.

1999 He publishes the first volume in the “Grand Livre de Cuisine” series. These books are pillars in the bibliography of the chef from Aquitaine, now totalling over 100 titles.

2000 He opens Alain Ducasse at the Essex House in New York, his first restaurant in the United States. That same year he moves his flagship Parisian restaurant to hotel Plaza Athénee, its current location.

2002 He takes the helm of the historic Aux Lyonnais, serving traditional Lyonnaise cuisine in Paris.

2004 Ducasseis nominated Knight of the Legion d’Honour by president Jacques Chirac. He opens his first restaurant in Asia, Beige in Tokyo, serving contemporary French cuisine with Japanese influences.

2006 He takes the helm at Jules Verne, the restaurant on the second floor of the Tour Eiffel.

2007 He enters the world of training and takes the helm at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Patisserie d’Yssingeaux. In 2009 he opens the Ecole de cuisine Alain Ducasse in Paris and then the Centre de Formation d'Alain Ducasse in Argenteuil, in the Parisian outskirts. That same year he prepares the menu for the astronauts of the ISS (International Space Station).

2008 On June 23rd prince Albert grants Alain Ducasse citizenship in Monaco. He loses his French passport.

2010 He conquers his first 3 Michelin stars abroad, at restaurant Alain Ducasse inside the Dorchester hotel in London. He’s the first chef to run 3 restaurants with 3 Michelin stars at the same time.

With Carlo Cracco and Massimo Bottura, on the 11th December for the dinner at Identità Golose Milano to raise funds for Food for Soul (photo OnStage Studio)

With Carlo Cracco and Massimo Bottura, on the 11th December for the dinner at Identità Golose Milano to raise funds for Food for Soul (photo OnStage Studio)

I’M LOOKING AT YOU. In the kitchen in Via Romagnosi (photo OnStage Studio)

I’M LOOKING AT YOU. In the kitchen in Via Romagnosi (photo OnStage Studio)

2012 He celebrates the 25th anniversary at Louis XV, inviting 240 chefs from 25 countries and 5 continents. It’s an unprecedented celebration, with 300 Michelin stars under the same roof.

2013 Together with craftsman Nicolas Berger he opens the first Le Chocolat de Alain Ducassein Paris. Today there are 12 manufactures in France, United Kingdom and Japan, totalling 200 tons of cocoa beans toasted each year. On top of this, there are 3 Cafés named after him and some 15 more places enriching the culinary offer of museums, galleries and historic residences.

2013 The World’s 50 Best gives him the "Lifetime Achievement Award", before him, the award went to other chefs who made the history of the last 50 years: Joël RobuchonGualtiero MarchesiPaul BocuseAlbert and Michel RouxEckart Witzigmann.

2018 The restaurant at Plaza Athénée gets to number 21 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. The real result is that for the 17th time out of 17, one of Ducasse’s restaurants gets into the 50Best: no other has managed so far. In 2002, the first edition of the 50Best, it was the turn of his Spoon des Iles, Mauritius.

2019 The Alain Ducasse Group has now some 2,000 employees, at work in 7 countries and 3 continents.

TODAY’S 29 RESTAURANTS
All the restaurants of Alain Ducasse divided per location, category and Michelin stars (20 in total).

Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris, France (fine dining, 3*)
Le Louis XV - Alain Ducasse à l'Hôtel de Paris, Monaco (fine dining, 3*)
Alain Ducasse all’hotel Dorchester, London, United Kingdom (fine dining, 3*)
Le Meurice Alain Ducasse, Paris, France (fine dining, 2*)
Beige Alain Ducasse, Tokyo, Japan (fine dining, 2*)
Alain Ducasse at Morpheus al City of Dreams, Macao, China (fine dining, 2*)
Benoit, Paris, France (bistro, 1*)
Benoit, Tokyo, Japan (seafood restaurant, 1*)
Rech by Alain Ducasse, Hong Kong, China (seafood restaurant, 1*)
La Cour Jardin al Plaza Athénée, Paris, France (bistro)
Le Relais Plaza, Paris, France (classic brasserie)
Le Dalí at hotel Le Meurice, Paris, France (brasserie)
Allard, Paris, France (bistro)
Aux Lyonnais, Paris, France (classic bistro)
Ducasse sur Seine, Paris, France (bateau on the Seine)
Rech, Paris, France (seafood restaurant)
Champeaux, Paris, France (brasserie)
Cucina Mutualité, Paris, France (Italian cuisine)
Spoon al Palais Brongniart, Paris, France (oriental cuisine)
Bib & Guss, Paris, France (restaurant and bar)
Ducasse au château de Versailles, Versailles, France (fine dining)
Ore, Versailles, France (cafè)
Rivea at Byblos, Saint-Tropez, France (Provencal cuisine)
Ômer, Monaco (Mediterranean cuisine)
Idam, Doha, Qatar (Mediterranean/oriental cuisine)
MiX by Alain Ducasse at Kempinski hotel, Dubai, The Arab Emirates (Mediterranean/oriental cuisine)
Voyages by Alain Ducasse, Macao, China
Benoit, New York, United States (contemporary bistro)
Rivea al Delano, Las Vegas, United States (Mediterranean cuisine)

Scallops from the Chausey islands, cauliflower in brioche, kimchi of vegetal leaves, the dish prepared by Alain Ducasse and Romain Meder at Identità Milano in December (photo OnStage Studio)

Scallops from the Chausey islands, cauliflower in brioche, kimchi of vegetal leaves, the dish prepared by Alain Ducasse and Romain Meder at Identità Milano in December (photo OnStage Studio)

Cookpot, the dish that represents the new vegetal direction taken  by Ducasse (photo ducasse-paris.com)

Cookpot, the dish that represents the new vegetal direction taken  by Ducasse (photo ducasse-paris.com)

FAMOUS QUOTES 
«Rumble without genius is always better than genius without rumble».

«I have no interest in awards and acknowledgements. Success is about taming your passions».

«Every chef has a territory where he can express his emotions, different from others. It is this individual character that makes the total richer».

«I love Italian cuisine. But I won’t open a gourmet restaurant in Italy until you find an agreement on the cooking of pasta».

«Perfection is something we must always seek, knowing we will never reach it».

«Where politics don’t arrive, food can».

«My regret is that days only last 24 hours».

«A cook must make current cuisine, not old cuisine. And for sure not tomorrow’s cuisine because we still don’t know what it looks like».

«My greatest dream? Opening a restaurant on Mars».

 

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso



Sections

Primo piano

The events you cannot miss and all the news of topical interest from the food planet