What an empire of restaurants Alain Ducasse now rules over. This French chef, famous across Europe, the United States and Asia, has lent his name to well over 30 during his long career, with new ones opening regularly. Altogether, he has clocked up a total of 21 Michelin stars. He has also launched cookery schools, published myriad cookbooks and even produced meals for astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS).
Now 64 years old, in his later years Ducasse has become far more conscious of the environmental and health impacts of his cooking. He says he aims to increase the plant-based proteins on his menus, while reducing the fats, salts and sugars. This, he believes, will become a key aspect of fine dining in the future.
“Four or five years ago, I decided to remove meat from the menu of one of my Paris restaurants, and to focus on more humble produce like vegetables, cereals and fish from sustainable fishing,” he said in an interview with Country and Town House magazine. “Also, looking at partnerships with suppliers: there’s an increasing sense that everything needs to be sustainable and right and fair.”
At the same time, Ducasse is keen to praise the great traditions of French cuisine. “It is all about harmony – the harmony between the garnish and the protein, the harmony of the wine pairing, the music, the décor, the tableware,” he says, adding: “It’s about giving attention to the happiness of our guests. In the end, the memory a guest leaves with is the most important thing.”
Born in 1956 in Orthez, a town in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, in southwest France, Ducasse knew the farming life as a child. He says it was his grandmother’s cooking that inspired him to follow a career in catering. “I loved to see her cooking, transforming the produce of our farm into delicious food,” he recalls. “I still remember the smell and taste of the roast chicken she used to prepare for Sunday lunches.”
After pursuing an early career in various restaurants across the south of France, Ducasse opened his first hotel-restaurant (La Bastide de Moustiers)
in Provence in the 1980s, quickly establishing his reputation. By the turn of the millennium, he had made his name in Europe and had embarked on a conquest of the United States and Asia.
Now he has worked for the ISS, his sights have been set well beyond the confines of Earth. He once even suggested he might eventually open a restaurant on another planet. “I could mention Mars, since this project is seriously developing,” he says of future manned missions to the Red Planet. Given his existing portfolio, you get the impression he might be semi-serious about this.
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