Interview with Alain Ducasse, the ‘Glocal’ French Superstar Chef
Is the role of chef encompassing many other roles these days?
It is the decision of the chef to take on these different roles. At the Plaza Athenee we play the role of a humanitarian and politician, since the whole idea behind our menu is to encourage people to eat without depleting resources, to be sustainable, to eat more grains, and to mindfully protect the products and environment. It is the role of chefs to carry forth these humanitarian values.
Dan Barber's Stone Hill Barn is situated on a farm and now Noma is moving to an urban farm. Since these chefs exert a huge influence in the industry, are more such restaurants likely to pop up in the future?
These are not easy propositions but they are going to come up. Dan Barber has been doing this so well for ten years at Stone Hill in New York, and is really the best real example of such work. I have also been doing this at a lot of my restaurants and auberges, and of course they are seasonal.
You have a lot of women heading kitchens and other jobs in your organization, but is it fair to distinguish between chefs based on gender instead of talent?
For me it's a decision not about gender. I have a female chef heading the kitchen at my Allard restaurant in Paris and at Benoit. I chose them because they are the best. I think that my chef at Allard is the best chef for that restaurant and I don't see any male chef being as capable for that job. She is the ideal person to achieve what I want at that restaurant.
It is a hard job and it's easier for men and so it's important to notice and recognize when women make a mark. We just talk about it more since it's not as common. Even I tend to talk more about my female chefs than my male chefs, though I regard them as equals in the field. Sometimes I will point them out to the men saying they are better than you!
What is your reaction to incompetence in the kitchen by one of the team members?
I just go ahead and show them how to do a better job, since for me it's all about the teaching.
Going back in time, any recollections of your first day in the Hotel de Paris kitchens in Monte Carlo?
I had already dreamed and written down what I planned to do before I actually arrived there. I do remember was a Thursday on 27th May, 1987, and everything was already in place to begin my work.
Prince Rainier had challenged you to get three Michelin stars in four years for Monaco?
Yes, and I decided to take the challenge and then I managed to get them in just 33 months.