Interview with Alain Ducasse, the ‘Glocal’ French Superstar Chef

Ducasse is one of the world’s most renowned (and respected) chefs

“Modern cuisine in and of itself doesn't really exist, it's just the capacity to be current and in harmony with today's society to seduce today's diners to the table.”

Is it a generational aspect?
I am myself very curious, and though I feel we must preserve the traditions, we must have new chefs emerging to bring in new and modern things. I visited Otium, a restaurant adjacent to a museum in LA and it was an extremely enjoyable experience though very different and modern. In contrast, just a few weeks ago I had a very pleasurable lunch at Bocuse in Lyon and though both the experiences are very different, they are very unique. One was more formal and beautiful, while the other had a very different but interesting vibe.

Why do you think the younger generation of French chefs in Paris or elsewhere are dialing down dining, opting for a casual vibe?
I think because it's cheaper, more sexy, and as for me I do many different levels of gastronomy. I do high end down to the other end of the spectrum. French gastronomy goes from €25 to € 500, of course they are not similar proposals, but that is  the idea behind French gastronomy. 

As a chef who enjoys working with a mortar and pestle at times, do you appreciate technology in the kitchen?
Technology offers an extraordinary assistance in the kitchen and it helps chefs be more consistent and regular. The technology takes the lead on the art. The new techniques should be used to assist the cook, essentially they should be at the service of the chefs and not the other way around. It certainly helps the performance and all these new techniques have helped to elevate the quality of cuisine. However the chef should always stay in charge of the destination.

What is not acceptable to you in any of your kitchens?
To not choose the best product available and then not use the best technique to bring that ingredient forward. Selection of the perfect product is very important, so I stress that we must select perfectly, prepare perfectly, season perfectly, and cook perfectly. The right sauce or the right condiments, chosen wisely, make the dish.

What qualities do you look for in prospective employees and on their resumes, and is formal training a requisite?
I want to see their eyes sparkle if they want the opportunity. The desire and passion must be there. I am more interested in what the individual is capable of doing versus what's listed on a CV. I am open to everything and don't necessarily look at their training. It's the passion for their work and desire for the opportunity that I look for. Motivation, ambition, and their drive to excel and succeed are the important qualities.

How was your experience during the Gelinaz Shuffle last year?
I was at this restaurant in Lake Garda Italy (Ristorante Lido 84) and had a very interesting experience. The chef Riccardo Camanini is a great guy. I really liked him, his personality, as well as his food. For me personally it was a great experience to work there, since I believe if you have the technique and the right products you can cook good food anywhere. I thought it was a great idea to organize this event and we served a beautiful dinner to the guests that night.