The Restaurant le Meurice, in the 1815-vintage Hôtel Meurice on the rue de Rivoli in Paris, is one of the city's most beautiful dining rooms, and in Yannick Alléno, it had one of the most original and sure-handed of the city's chefs. Taking over the restaurant kitchens in 2003, Alléno had won three Michelin stars by 2007, along with a reputation for such creations as foie gras with acacia honey and sweet-and-sour turnips, sea bream with saffron-flavored mussels, and roast pigeon with Swiss chard and matchstick fries.
These days, of course, one mere restaurant — even one in a 160-room luxury hotel — isn't enough for a talented chef. In 2008, Alléno also took over the dining room at Le Cheval Blanc, a five-star ski resort in Courchevel. The same year, he and a partner formed Le Groupe Yannick Alléno, which now oversees some 14 restaurants not just in France — besides the Cheval Blanc restaurant, called 1947, the group also runs Dior des Lices in Saint-Tropez and Terroir Parisien, a traditional-style bistro in Paris — but in Morocco, Lebanon, Dubai, Taiwan, and China.
It is not exactly surprising, then, that Alléno would eventually move on from Le Meurice. He announced his impending departure in January of this year, staying on for several months before leaving the restaurant temporarily in the hands of his kitchen team. It was also not exactly surprising that when his successor was announced earlier this month, his was a familiar name: Alain Ducasse.
Ducasse, who has even more restaurants under his name than Alléno — 20 at most recent count, with a total of 17 Michelin stars between them — also oversees the kitchens at the Hôtel Plaza-Athénée, also in Paris, and the Dorchester Hotel in London, both, like Le Meurice, part of the Dorchester Collection hotel group. Ducasse has been hired, says the official announcement, "to supervise the restaurant team." It is a safe bet that he will soon install one of the accomplished chefs in his organization to actually cook at Le Meurice from day to day.
The timing works out well for Ducasse, incidentally: He is scheduled to assume control of the Meurice kitchen in early September; in early October, his restaurant at the Plaza-Athénée closes for seven months for renovation.