French chef Alain Ducasse is a cornerstone of modern French cuisine. He currently runs the kitchens at over 30 restaurants around the globe, and holds 21 Michelin stars. He was the youngest chef to be awarded three Michelin stars at the age of 33, and sits for very few interviews. Recently, he sat down, briefly, with the Independent to talk shop. Here, now, the 10 most illuminating lines from the interview.
Ducasse collects vintage luggage and travel trunks, and his plans for the day in London included "dropping in on the Chelsea antique shop Bentleys."
No English, svp: "Ducasse prefers to conduct interviews in his native French."
On his critics, who say he's never in the kitchen: "His longstanding response is that he had plans to get out of the kitchen by the time he was 28, following a plane crash in the French Alps, of which he was the sole survivor.'The pain and suffering I endured turned out to be a starting point in the way I envisaged my work as a chef,' he says.
His mother didn't want him to be a chef, and tried to scare him out of the business by sending him to train at roadside restaurants when he was quite young, "hoping that the harsh reality of cooking might deter him. One of his earliest memories of kitchens is of plucking turkeys for Christmas when he was 16: 'The harder it was, the more I simply wanted to cook.'"
On women in his kitchens: "It has always been important for me to have women in my restaurants, both front and back of house.... Two of my head chefs are female. Laetitia Rouabah at Allard, perpetuates the legacy of Marthe Allard — a 'mother cook' who founded the restaurant in 1932 — and brings it up to date aptly. At the helm of Benoit, one of the last authentic Parisian bistros, we have Fabienne Eymard. Both maintain the traditions and bring their touches to those places."
Ducasse sees cooking shows as a double edged sword: "Beyond the glamour, one must not forget that our trade is very demanding... But cookery shows can reactivate the desire for young people to be part of this adventure."
On the other hand: "[He] believes these shows could help combat the current shortage of chefs in the UK: according to reports at the end of last year, there has been a drop in the number of students enrolling in chef courses. If the trend continues, it's thought there will be a shortfall of 11,000 chefs by 2022."
Ducasse on the similarities between fine dining and haute couture: "Each is a window to their industries... creating interest and setting trends."
Ducasse's plans for 2016 ("I have many, many plans - too many") include a new "bistro, in the Les Halles neighbourhood of Paris."
If he hadn't been a chef, Ducasse would have been "an explorer and architect... [Now] I get to do all three."