Interview with Alain Ducasse

Words by Hannah Felt

25 June 2020

Star chef Alain Ducasse’s latest restaurant is a boat that travels up and down the River Seine while diners enjoy the sights, sounds, and tastes of Paris. Here he tells us why he’s decided to take to the water, why he likes to eat at home and how to cook the perfect chicken.

Quintessentially: Bonjour, Alain! Tell us a little about Ducasse sur Seine?

Alain Ducasse: It’s a restaurant – a restaurant on an electric boat! The client experiences a double pleasure: eating delicious contemporary French cuisine while admiring Paris’s most impressive monuments. No noise, no fumes, no vibrations: just pleasure.

Why do it?

Because I’d never done it before, actually, no one’s ever done it before. Paris deserves this sort of hedonistic innovation.

What are the difficulties of making haute cuisine in a ship’s kitchen?

You can’t hire people who suffer from seasickness! Our kitchen has been entirely tailor-made with all high-tech tools and the latest in power-saving technology. Many high-end restaurants would dream of having such a modern, well-organised kitchen.

Are you opening any other new restaurants at the moment?

Ômer in Monaco, dedicated to all the cuisines from the Mediterranean Sea; in Paris: Adjugé, located in the Hôtel Drouot, the famous auction house; Spoon, in the Palais Brongniart; and the last one: Cucina Byblos in Saint-Tropez, which offers relaxed Italian cooking.

Going back to your beginnings, tell us about your first restaurant…

It was Le Louis XV, my restaurant of the Hôtel de Paris, in Monaco. I obtained three Michelin stars there in the first 33 months of operation, cooking haute cuisine with humble produce and recipes from the Riviera.

Why did you want to open other restaurants after that?

Why do you want to keep on breathing after you’ve inhaled air for the first time? It’s my life.

How did it feel when you became famous? Exciting? Scary?

Realising my dreams is much more important. I’m excited about what’s to come, and by the restaurant, I haven’t opened yet.

You oversee a lot of restaurants. How do you make sure standards are kept high?

The key people I’ve put at the helm of my establishments have worked with me for years and have been trained in my restaurants. They’re entirely in line with my philosophy, plus I visit them very regularly. I’m very close with my teams and keen to continue sharing my vision with them.

Do you still cook? If so, where?

Yes. I cook at home, for my friends and family.

When you’ve been so successful, what still drives you?

To learn, to discover, to share. Cooking makes me visit the world, witness how people live and dream, what they like, and dislike. It makes me travel and see how farmers and fishermen work tirelessly to obtain our food from Mother Nature.

Is French cuisine moving forward?

Fast forward! That’s thanks to the combination of solid technical basis, a public of demanding amateurs and a new generation of cooks. The richness, diversity, and vitality of contemporary French cuisine is just incredible.

If you want to eat something informal and tasty, where do you go?

Home! It’s my most favourite and secret address by far.

You’re sitting down for Sunday lunch. What would be your ideal meal?

A ‘cookpot’: seasonal vegetables slowly simmered in individual casseroles. The cookpot is a porcelain dish I created with my artistic director Pierre Tachon. Itˇs the ideal tool for a simple, healthy, and tasty meal.

Finally, how do you cook the perfect roast chicken?

Why do anything else but put it in the oven? The most important thing is the produce. Choose a perfect chicken.

One that’s been fed well, without GMO or chemical products. A chicken who’s had plenty of space to live and roam in the open air, not in artificial light or tiny cages. A chicken you should buy from the farmer!

To make a reservation at any of Alain’s restaurants, please contact your lifestyle manager.

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