The Michelin-Starred Chef Dishes Out Choice Tips
French chef Alain Ducasse is one of the food world’s most dazzling success stories. His vast culinary empire lays claim to three-Michelin-starred restaurants, but it's his humble beginnings growing up in a family of farmers in the South West of France that provide the key to his cuisine’s appeal: a blend of extreme sophistication and local, “honest” basics. NOWNESS met up with Monsieur Ducasse at his tasting of The Dorchester’s Winter Menu, to discuss cooking for Brits, dim sum in Hong Kong and cheap comforts in France.
How did the dishes in the tasting measure up?
The spicy scampi ravioli was a success. The Jerusalem artichokes with bacon were perfect, in my opinion. On the other hand, the roe deer was a little too firm, and might have needed a bit of a boost. It should be cooked more quickly, without burning the pepper, which can be tricky.
How do you adapt your recipes to an English palate?
When you cook for the Brits, you have to give them intense tastes. The influence of Indian cuisine is considerable; it has affected their taste buds. Today, they want seasonings with an attitude. You need bold flavors, which are also decipherable. It has to be clear, honest.
What do you look for in a perfect dish?
It has to be delicious! It should be perfectly cooked and seasoned. When eating it, one should feel an immediate palatable pleasure––not unnecessary complications, just pure, instant delight.
Are you able to eat simple foods despite being surrounded with such sophistication all day?
You know, gastronomy is neither simple nor sophisticated; it’s either good or not. A restaurant should try to be the best of its genre, [and do it] with sincerity, quality and in harmony with its environment.
Can you name a particularly memorable gastronomic experience?
When I was in Hong Kong, I had an incredible dim sum meal in a simple canteen.
How have eating habits evolved in France since you first started cooking?
Fast foods are increasingly popular because of the lack of decent snacks. If cafés valued the young generation as an important customer and offered affordable options, there would be less people at McDonald’s. Bistros should offer cheap, quality sandwiches––because €10 is an awful lot of money when you’re a student.
What is the one ingredient you could never live without?
There are two: olive oil and fleur de sel (hand-harvested French sea salt). I use olive oil to cook and season, although you should be careful not to heat it too much.
Do you have a recession budget meal tip?
Eat vegetables. Buy a couple of leeks from your local farmers’ market. Make sure you clean them well and slice them; then, steam cook them and sprinkle olive oil and sea salt, and voila!