Ducasse's Louis XV 25 years on

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Gourmet at workFrenchman Alain Ducasse at work in the kitchen of his
Gourmet at workFrenchman Alain Ducasse at work in the kitchen of his "Louis XV" restaurant in the Hotel de Paris in Monaco which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.Photo: AFP

One summer's day 28 years ago, Alain Ducasse – the man dubbed the "godfather" of French cuisine – was rescued half-paralysed from a mountainside in the Alps, sole survivor of a light plane crash.

It was three years before the chef could walk unaided: "I had to imagine and write down recipes, and have others execute them for me," the 56-year-old said in a recent interview.

"The accident changed my way of doing the job."

This month Ducasse celebrates a quarter century at his first three-star eatery, the Louis XV in Monaco, by hosting a gala three-day party for 240 chefs in the principality – of which he became a citizen in 2008.

Today at the helm of a global empire with 21 Michelin stars to his name, Ducasse pioneered a radical new culinary business model.

The scale of the Monaco event, devoted to the Mediterranean-inspired cuisine he long championed, is a sign of his clout.

"There is no space left on the world map to put our guys," jokes Franck Cerutti, Ducasse's longtime ally and the chef of the Louis XV.

The Steve Jobs of gastronomy

"Jet chef" is another of Ducasse's nicknames, from the time he spends travelling the planet inspecting his two dozen eateries, from Paris to Tokyo or Las Vegas, with Qatar to follow next year.

Born to a family of farmers in the southwestern Landes region, Ducasse talks of being strongly influenced by his grandmother's home cooking.

Impatient by nature, he quit catering school, learning his trade in the kitchens of nouvelle cuisine pioneer Michel Guerard, as well as Gaston Lenotre, Roger Verge and Alain Chapel (all of whom are famous culinary experts from France).

High-quality produce is his mantra.

His style? Though Mediterranean at its roots, he adapts to each venue with a "glocal" approach – both global and local – turning out camel pastilla in Doha, and classic Parisian for the Eiffel Tower's eatery, the Jules Verne.

In 1987, he arrived in Monaco, earning three stars in 1990. He arrived in Paris in 1996, and clinched three stars there too the following year.

In 2005 he became the first to hold three stars in three different places by adding New York.

"He's like the Steve Jobs of gastronomy," jokes one colleague.

His skill, according to Marc Haeberlin, chef of the three-star Auberge de l'Ill in France's eastern Alsace region: "The ability to spot talent, and to duplicate the secrets of his cuisine."

The critic Simon is more measured: for him, Ducasse's strategy has brought a kind of "coldness to a cuisine that has to be imitable, therefore less demanding in terms of research".AFP

  • The Michelin Red Guide is the oldest European hotel and restaurant guide which awards Michelin Stars.

  • In 1933 the Michelin brothers introduced the star system for ranking food in France and later extended it to the whole world.

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