Earlier this week French chef Alain Ducasse held a book signing at New York's French Institute Alliance Française, chatting with Food & Wine editor Alex Vallis, Doughnut Plant's Mark Isreal, Russ & Daughters' Niki Russ Federman, and Brooklyn Brewery's Garrett Oliver about their culinary history and the work of artisans.
Much of the discussion focused on the path to chefdom: Ducasse started out working as a cook at a truck-stop restaurant; Federman spent years trying to escape the Russ name, while Oliver wanted to be a film director and Isreal worked at places like CBGB. Meanwhile, Ducasse voiced his opinions that artisans are "waging a war" against globalization, Federman spilled more details on the new Russ & Daughters café, and Isreal recalled the first days of Doughnut Plant, where he delivered donuts via bike. And the next Ducasse book projects? J'aime London next year, followed by J'aime Tokyo. The best quotes below.
Ducasse on Being a Chef: "Once you're a chef you no longer have to defeather chickens, shell a crayfish, and get your fingers sticky, smelling like fish, and so on and so on. So a young cook must learn in order to grow and then become a chef."
Federman on the Inescapable Russ Name: "Once in San Francisco a lady took me to a warehouse and said, 'This is where Russ & Daughters West should be.' I was trying to escape it!... But it was this one constant; Russ & Daughters kept coming up, and that's what resonated with them. That is so unique in the States where we don't have as much of an idea of continuitiy and tradition, and that's such a beautiful thing, to continue a tradition."
Isreal on His First Doughnut Plant Kitchen: "I started in this really small basement, and it was just me and the donuts and it was like a prison. It was a little cell with no windows, 300 square feet, and it was just me. And the donuts."
Oliver on the Purpose of Brooklyn Brewery: "We hope that you like our beer but in the end we don't really care. We love the people who drink our beer but in the end it's not about you.The purpose of this is to make us happy."
Ducasse on Food as Politics: "To do this job is a political act. We are all at war against globalization on a daily basis, to preserve the differences of each culture, and culture has an expression through food... it's the will to tell a story that is your own."