January 24, 2014 7:19 pm

The Inventory: Alain Ducasse

‘Past success means nothing. Customers expect you to be good right now,’ says the famous chef

Alain Ducasse, 57, is one of the world’s most talented chefs. He has restaurants in Paris, Monaco and London, three of which hold three Michelin stars.

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What was your earliest ambition?

I had three. I wanted to become an architect, to travel and to be a cook.

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

Not very long at school. And then long work days.

Who was or still is your mentor?

In my early days, I met a lot of great people in the cuisine domain like Michel Guérard, Gaston Lenôtre and Roger Vergé. Then I met the legendary Paul Bocuse. However, Alain Chapel, with whom I worked when I was 20, is really my mentor, because he taught me a lot about cuisine and even more about life.

How physically fit are you?

I feel all right, thank you.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

Both count. Yet work makes the real difference.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?

No – what a bizarre idea!

How politically committed are you?

I’m not in a party – but I am very aware of my responsibilities as a citizen; I take various initiatives to help the planet and those in need.

Travel bags©Alamy

Most wanted: can never resist buying luggage

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

I am a very eco-friendly chef but a guilty air traveller.

Do you have more than one home?

I live in Paris, yet Monaco, where I spend a lot of time, holds a very special place in my heart.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

I have a passion for luggage – trunks and so on. I have a collection of them but I can never resist buying another piece.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

Having chosen a profession which is also my favourite hobby, it does not leave much time for the rest.

In what place are you happiest?

With my family and friends, in the garden of my country house, under the arbour, on a summer evening.

If you had a coat of arms, what would be on it?

Alain Ducasse's imaginary coat of arms

A spoon. It’s a nice object, round and friendly. You can prepare food with it, also eat with it. Simplicity and perfection: everything that I like.

What ambitions do you still have?

I developed a concept of food for the astronauts who will go to Mars for the European Space Agency. My dearest dream is to see this project become reality.

What drives you on?

The pleasure I draw from meeting new people and discovering new flavours. Learning makes me richer.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

Training so many young talents who have become successful chefs.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

I don’t like being disappointed by somebody I trust. Fortunately, it rarely happens. Otherwise, when I do something and it doesn’t work, I take it as a challenge and try again.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?

I guess he would recognise the fiftysomething self he was (vaguely, I must admit) envisioning.

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

Start again from scratch. Starting again from scratch is exactly what a chef feels every day before starting the service. He may have been good the day before, but for customers in the dining room, past success counts for nothing. They expect you to be good right now.

A still from the film 'Les invasions barbares'©Allstar/ASTRAL

Assisted suicide: very moved by the film 'Les invasions barbares'

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

I was profoundly moved by the last part of Denys Arcand’s movie Les invasions barbares, which shows the final minutes of a man who decides to end his life. It was peaceful and beautiful. How is it in real life, I wonder?

Do you believe in an afterlife?

I like the idea there is one.

 

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

7.5. There is always room for improvement.

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Alain Ducasse’s “J’aime London” is published by Hardie Grant on April 14

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