In his Gastronomic confessionsthe gourmet columnist Alain Bauer draws up an in-depth biography of the great cook from the Landes.
Alain Bauer. | Eric Allouche
Three-star chef several times in France in Paris at the Plaza Athénée (leaving in May 2021), at the Hôtel de Paris in Monaco, at the Dorchester in London, recent owner of Allard, Lyonnais, Champeaux at Les Halles, this son of he farmer from Chalosse dominates the French culinary scene, as did Paul Bocuse in Lyon, Claude Terrail at La Tour d’Argent and Joël Robuchon in Paris, Tokyo and Monaco.
Grandson of a carpenter, son of farmers in the Landes between Adour and Béarn, the Ducasse child formed his taste by savoring foie gras, free-range poultry, duck, wood pigeon and porcini mushrooms in his family: “essential tastes for the future great cook.
Alain Ducasse at the Louis XV at the Hôtel de Paris. | Matteo Carassale
His grandmother concocts farmhouse cuisine using excellent products: meat on Sundays and freshly picked garden vegetables…
Extracts from the book.
“From this kitchen, I kept a precise memory of smells even before the memory of tastes. My room was above the stove, there was no hood! […]
For me, the smell is the first impression, the visual comes after and then at the end the taste: the beautiful French gastronomy comes from there, from these very alive feelings. […]
It was at the age of twelve that I decided to cook, to the great despair of my mother who wanted me to become an engineer in a large company. […]
During the Christmas holidays, she places me with a truck driver to disgust me with cooking. Over there, I pluck turkeys by zero degrees outside, poultry by the thousands. I have no pleasure in working like this, I also wash dishes and cook pancakes for three hours straight. […]
In this job, it’s good to do, but not to redo. I don’t like repetition. I continued my apprenticeship in 1972 at the Pavillon Landais in Soustons with a chef called Ducasset. Funny, no! […]
One fine day, on a whim, I quit the hotel school because I was tired of making choux pastry. And then I went to Michel Guérard in Eugénie-les-Bains, he had just moved in, it was very close to my home in Tursan.
– I want to work with you, I tell him
– Kid, you come back later but today, I can’t pay you
– It does not matter.
I stayed. […]
In the kitchen at Eugénie, there are five clerks and we do everything. One day, Gaston Lenôtre, a friend of Guérard, came to Eugénie and I asked him to teach me how to make croissants, which he accepted. In Paris, later, I was introduced to pastry with this great master of millefeuille and Saint-Honoré with cream. […]
Two years later, in 1977, I went to Roger Vergé at the Moulin de Mougins, three stars: I had an interest in the Mediterranean and sunny, tasty southern cuisine. […]
At the Moulin, I was promoted to fish chef and I met Bruno Cirino who was to be my second in Monaco: he cooked duck au sang on the plate, quite an exercise. In 1978, I went to Alain Chapel in Mionnay in Ain. I had read a lot about this great cook and I start at the end of the summer for the hunt. […]
At Chapel, I was placed as an entremétier and ended up being a saucier. I acquired a form of mastery there, I know how to cook and make a Hollandaise. […]
One evening, Roger Vergé called me and made me responsible for L’Amandier in Mougins, my first position as chef. I invent, I improve, I modify. And for fifteen guest chefs, I cook roast poultry stuffed with herbs and stuffed with vegetables. Jacques Maximin, the great cook from Nice, said to Vergé: The little one will go far.»
Alain Ducasse was hired at La Terrasse de Juan-les-Pins and in March 1984, he won his first two Michelin stars.
“August 9, 1984, terrible plane crash, three years of hospitalization then crutches, all the passengers died, I am the only survivor. […]
In my head I make the map of Byblos de Saint-Tropez, which is why I was going to the Var village. I discover that I can carry out the creative process by visualizing it. Thanks to my brain, I will become an expert on the technical sheet.»
It was the time when Alain Ducasse was summoned to Monaco by Prince Rainier, made aware of his excellence at the piano.
Good palate, the Monegasque sovereign wants to open a gourmet restaurant in the Hôtel de Paris. “He had contacted quite a few three-star chefs and I have the idea of sending him a gastronomic proposal of seventeen pages: the menus, the dishes, the whole meal in detail.” Ducasse is summoned by the prince to Monaco, he makes a good impression.
– Are you going to prepare all this?
– Yes, with black cast iron casseroles, bacon bits and vegetables. If you let me try, I’ll do it.
1is October 1986, Prince Rainier announced that he had entrusted him with the superb restaurant at the Hôtel de Paris, which had been fitted out and modernised.
On the menu, there is an “All Vegetables” menu simmered in large Staub casserole dishes, it’s a 100% vegetable menu, “we’re going to sell two a day, that’s very little”.
At the Louis XV restaurant, bread with truffled wheat and the first fruits of our farmers, crushed sorrel. | Matteo Carassale
Today, the à la carte “Jardins de Provence” represents one out of three meals. On the Riviera, there are exceptional products in addition to cereals and the locally caught fish have an extraordinary taste. “I cook with what I have and what I know.”
The dining room of the Louis XV at the Hôtel de Paris, all in woodwork, is an architectural marvel, with beautiful armchairs, rugs and well-chosen crockery. Nothing is too good for the Monegasque restaurant, which has been revamped with the help of a stage professional to teach the staff how to walk and move around.
“Service is my obsession, I will go from cook to restaurateur and director.”
In 1990, the Louis XV obtained three stars in the Michelin guide: it was the first time in history that a luxury hotel restaurant was thus promoted to the top.
“I had signed in my contract that I would have three stars in four years otherwise I picked up my knives, I did it.”
In March 2005, Alain Ducasse will have four times three stars in Monaco, in Paris at 59 avenue Raymond Poincaré (75016), in New York at his home and in London at the Dorchester, a world record for a chef.
At the Louis XV restaurant, blue lobster en éclade, new potatoes, rhubarb and myrtle berries. | Matteo Carassale
In the spirit of the Landais, gastronomic luxury is not everything. In 2021, the great chef opened Sapid, a modest table rue de Paradis in Paris (75010). This collector of stars will not have any in this popular canteen: it is also a question of simply feeding the people, lunch is around 13 euros, a record there too.
Alain Ducasse Restaurants
Rech at the House of Latin America
217 boulevard Saint-Germain 75007 Paris. Tel.: 01 49 54 75 10. Lunch menu at 36 or 44 euros. Closed Saturday and Sunday.
The Dali at the Hotel Meurice
228 rue de Rivoli 75001 Paris. Tel.: 01 44 58 10 44. Menu around 85 euros. No closure.
41 rue Saint-André-des-Arts 75006 Paris. Tel.: 01 43 26 48 23. Lunch menu from 28 euros. Closed Sunday and Monday.
32 rue Saint-Marc 75002 Paris. Tel.: 01 42 96 65 04. Lunch menu from 28 euros. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
20 rue Saint-Martin 75004 Paris. Tel.: 01 42 72 25 76. Lunch menu from 30 euros. No closure.
Forum des halles, 12 passage de la Canopée 75001 Paris. Card from 40 to 65 euros. No closure.
Kitchen of the Mutuality
Maison de la Mutualité, 20 rue Saint-Victor 75005 Paris. Tel.: 01 44 31 54 54. Card from 37 to 60 euros. No closure.
25 Place de la Bourse 75002 Paris. Tel.: 01 83 92 20 30. Lunch menu at 26 or 31 euros. No closure.
The hotel Meurice
228 rue de Rivoli 75001 Paris. Tel.: 01 44 58 10 55. Two stars. Menu at 280 or 340 euros, a great moment of culture. Closed Saturday and Sunday.
Ducasse sur Seine on a yacht converted into a restaurant
10 port Debilly 75016 Paris. Tel.: 01 58 00 22 08. Lunch cruise menu from 95 euros, a bargain along the Seine, dinner from 190 euros.
Dufour Pavilion, 1is floor, Place d’Armes 78000 Versailles. Tel.: 01 30 84 12 96. Lunch menu at 38 or 48 euros from Tuesday to Friday, Saturday and Sunday until 5.30 p.m.
The Great Control
12 rue de l’Indépendance Américaine 78000 Versailles. Tel.: 01 85 36 05 77. One star. Card from 90 to 320 euros. Closed Sunday.
The Louis XV at the Hotel de Paris
Place du Casino 98000 Monte Carlo. Tel.: +377 98 06 88 64. Three stars. Dinner from Thursday to Monday. Lunch menu at 180 euros served on Saturday and Sunday.
At the Louis XV restaurant, gamberoni from San Remo. | Pierre Monetta
And Chocolate, Manufacture Alain Ducasse
40 rue de la Roquette 75011 Paris. Tel.: 01 48 05 82 85. Sale of assortments of chocolates, tablets, spreads, sugared almonds, candied fruit, etc.