Among them 300 Michelin stars, 240 chefs gather in Monaco to pay homage to Alain Ducasse, father of modern French gastronomy, writes Sudi Pigott
noDeclining an invitation, even if it means flying to Monaco for the weekend less than a month before Christmas: Celebrating a 25th birthday.
As guests checked in in the foyer of the Paris Hotel Monaco, it was moving to see Sydney's Tetsuya grinning from ear to ear as he greeted his longtime friend, former Sao Paulo DJ Alex Atala, with a bear hug. It meant a lot to Ducasse as he saluted Ducasse with a high five and Raymond Blanc kissed his fellow Frenchman with an impassioned "Magnifique" cry.
Read more: William Sitwell interviews Raymond Blanc
Twenty-five years ago, Prince Rainer of Monaco gave Alain Ducasse the specific challenge of creating the world's first three-Michelin-starred hotel restaurant within three years—a task he accomplished.
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The festivities kicked off with "Cocktails - Monaco from the Sky", a reference to the skylight of Le Grill restaurant on the eighth floor of the Hotel de Paris. Taste to follow, free flow of Vranken vintage champagne from Magnum and Puligny Montrachet Domaine J Carillon with 'simple' appetizers: pumpkin with black truffle, sardine Farcies 'Riveria' artichokes, barigoule and langouste, partridge and Tiny lamb chops With milk lamb, chestnut ragout and french fries, served from the show kitchen.
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Above: Alain Ducasse and Prince Albert of Monaco with some of the world's best chefs © Christian de Brosses/Le BeauKal.fr
As Michel Roux Junior told me, appreciating a tarte au citron de Menton: "It's great to be here. I don't miss anything in the world. The way he runs his empire is just unbelievable." High praise indeed from a notoriously tough warden whose daughter, Emily, had just completed Louis XV's tenure. "They worked really hard, without taking into account the fact that she was a young British woman. She learned a lot.
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many peopleAt parties, especially the British contingent, spending time with Louis XV, including Hibiscus's Claude Bosi, he told me (and kept his resolve) "I'll shut up." He admitted, a little awkwardly, that Ducasse wanted Jing Jing asked to speak with him privately about the latest row in the media.
Read more: Claude Bosi in conversation with Spear
Tom Kitchin, another Ducasse protégé, was chosen to prepare a dish for one of the 14 live cooking booths at the Grand Marche de la Mediterranée gastronomic haven on Saturday lunchtime. As Kitchin explained to me, "I was called a day in advance to prepare my dish with Riveria octopus, which was the ingredient chosen for me. It was a dreadful cooking competition for Ducasse and his culinary assistants— The pressure from MasterChef: The Professionals is endless!"
But as Ducasse explained to me with palpable satisfaction and joy while surveying the world's largest farmers' market: "As a chef, the most important thing for me is sharing and sharing knowledge. There should be no culinary restrictions .The future is about cooking together, not against each other. I’ve always been curious, delighted and amazed by the diversity of ingredients and techniques used by chefs around the world, resulting in street food today.”
Above: Alain Ducasse presenting the Grand Marche de la Mediterranée to Prince Albert of Monaco
Accompanied by Prince Albert of Monaco, he gleefully gushed about David Chang's creative interpretation of green lentils garnished with buckwheat and bacon, bacon-roasted celery root and black truffle sabayon.
The highlight of the weekend's extravagant festivities was a gala dinner for 440 people at the Salle Empire Prince Albert at the Hôtel de Paris, fittingly Escoffier once owned his restaurant. The menu embodies Ducasse's reverence for quality produce, deceptively simple in design to enhance its purity.
Although it willUnable to pick out one dish, I noticed that Joel Robuchon sitting at my table shared my delight in a delicate Gamberoni de San Remo with a stunning caviar topping and made with Dom Perignon Vintage Rose 1995 en magnum Incredibly tangy seafood jelly.
Milanese risotto master Carlo Cracco later told me that making this digital spelled risotto, especially with artichokes and white Alba truffles, is extremely technical. And no recognizable detail is overlooked. The distinctly grassy olive oil of the risotto was pressed two days ago to taste it in its purest form!
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There were more truffles in the salad (there were many rumors that finding enough - around 7kg - was exhausting) to accompany the delightful venison and blette (Swiss chard) tourtellotte with a fantastic salmis dressing.
Not quite for indulgence (licking plates), I mused to my neighbor, who happens to be Philippe Gollino, formerly at Le Louis XV and now running Ducasse's specialist culinary school in Argenteuil, near Paris.
Above: Prince Albert of Monaco toasts Alain Ducasse © Stephane Danna / realis
He replies mischievously: "I want to make salmis a scarpetta, maybe the kitchen will do it later!" It's a recipe I've inherited from my grandmother - Ducasse loves me bringing recipes like this to the table, and sublimate them into an advanced interpretation without losing their essence. They caramelize the bread soaked in fruit juice, that's pure childhood taste. "
what does it doThe biggest impression given to the chefs is the high level of technology. Noma's Rene Redzepi (who coyly reveals that his application for the stage at Louis XV was long ago dismissed) agrees: "It would be ambitious to create such an ambitious menu in a restaurant with 40 seats. Finding the right balance for the numbers is fantastic."
Claire Smyth, of Gordon Ramsay Royal Hospital Road, who worked at Le Louis XV for two years, continued: "This precision and perfection is what we all strive for."
Above: Magnus Nilsson, Alain Ducasse and Rene Redzepi © S.Danna/Realis
The last words were clearly addressed to Ducasse: "Yes, had a great weekend," he said with certainty, always a master of understatement, while embracing another great protégé, Massimo Bottura, and saying goodbye. With a mischievous grin, he added: "It's good for my ego!"
Jokes aside, it's clear that Ducasse cares about his legacy, with an impressive expansion of his educational institution to Manila and Brazil, and ambitious plans for the future. This weekend is sure to go down in culinary history.
As Ducasse often said: "We must never stand still, always looking forward and looking back."
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