The World’s Most Celebrated Chef Discusses London Food, Chocolate and Brexit
Alain Ducasse is one of the world’s most celebrated chefs. He holds a total of 18 Michelin stars, and he’s the highest-profile international ambassador for contemporary French cuisine, with 30 restaurants, from Las Vegas and New York to Macau and Tokyo.
His latest passion is for chocolate, with a workshop in Paris that sources cocoa beans from a dozen locations. Last month, he opened a store in London, at Coal Drops Yard
How has London changed since you opened Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester in 2007?
“I have seen a major change in the scene here in London. It has become very competitive. The bar is high. There are lots of restaurants trying for a Michelin star. The ones that have one want two, and the ones that have two want three, (including chefs) Claude Bosi, Clare Smyth. There are many people here wanting to progress. We have lots of British guests and also people visiting from overseas and we have to really listen to them: Keeping our roots and the DNA of contemporary French cuisine, using local produce as much as we can. But still listening to our clients in the market.”
What does that mean for the restaurant?
“We are looking at refurbishing the restaurant next year in August, to start something new, a new story. Every 10 to 12 years we upgrade and we change. It is my job to be innovative, to have a vision for the restaurants. I am like the artistic director giving the lines and then the chefs are very important to interpret this vision, to be the main actor and they have to be supportive to what I give as a guideline. As a restaurant, we have to evolve and to be in constant movement, always straining for excellence.”
Why open a chocolate shop in London, your first outside France and Japan?
“I sensed that there is the beginning of a strong interest in London for what we do in terms of chocolate. We have a unique product and a way of making chocolate. There is more and more interest in that kind of craftsmanship here. It feels like the right time. There might be challenges (because of Brexit) but we are happy to be here and we won't change our minds about that.”
What is so special about your chocolate?
“We make everything from scratch. There is a great care put into the sourcing for almonds, hazelnuts, all the nuts, the dry fruits, everything that goes into our products. We work with the beans, the way we assess the quality of the beans to tailor the roasting for each batch. We tailor all the process so it is not like a standard process. You have to come to the manufacture in Paris to really understand.”
Le Chocolat, Coal Drops Yard, Stable Street, London, N1C 4AB
Richard Vines is chief food critic at Bloomberg. Follow him on Twitter @richardvines and Instagram@richard.vines