World’s most decorated chef, Chef Alain Ducasse: “We are running a bit more than thirty restaurants which, in total, have 20 Michelin stars.”

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World-renowned Chef Alain Ducasse needs no introduction; he’s one of the world’s most decorated chefs with an outstanding 20 Michelin stars awarded to him. Chef Alain Ducasse has also helmed 30-starred restaurants dotted across top cities of the world. But now, he has collaborated with AlUla in Saudi Arabia for a distinctive exciting gastronomic pop-up venture.

In an exclusive interview with Sumita Chakraborty, Editor-in-chief, TheGlitz, Chef Alain Ducasse, the world’s most decorated chef and the chef with the Midas touch, talks about his culinary journey, his innovative dining concepts and his oasis-to-table gastronomic pop-up in AlULa. Read on…

Over To Chef Alain Ducasse

You are one of the world’s most decorated chefs with 20 Michelin stars, so it is indeed an honour to talk about your magical culinary journey. Could you tell us briefly about what made you opt to be a chef and how has the culinary journey been?

I decided to become a chef in my early childhood. This interest in cooking probably came from my grandmother: she lived with us on the family farm and she was the one preparing the meals. I still remember the taste and smell of the roast chicken she frequently prepared for the Sunday lunches. Then came the years of learning. I worked with great professionals: Michel Guérard, Gaston Lenôtre, Roger Vergé and, the one who has counted the most, Alain Chapel.

What are the challenges you’ve faced? And how have you tackled these challenges?
The first challenge was about deciding to become a chef rather than take over the family farm. I must say that my parents were very disappointed about my choice. Then the years of training weren’t easy. I worked hard and was paid little. But, at the end of the day, the call for this profession happened to be irresistible.

You are the one who has created innovative dining concepts reflecting international influences. What made you think of these influences?
I would rather say that I create tailor-made restaurants proposing a cuisine adapted to the location yet always using French techniques. In other words, my cuisine is inspired by the place where the restaurant is located yet it is always elaborated thanks to the French know-how.

“Tailor-made restaurants”

You are currently helming some of the best restaurants which in total have 20 Michelin-stars. Each of the starred restaurants in Monaco, Paris and London are extremely popular. Could you tell us about them?

Le Louis XV in Monaco

In fact, we are running a bit more than thirty restaurants which, in total, have 20 Michelin stars. Again, each restaurant tells its own story – there is no copycat. Le Louis XV, in Monaco, is especially dear to my heart since it is the first restaurant where I got three Michelin stars, in 1990. In London, my restaurant is located in the Hotel Dorchester, in Mayfair. I opened it in 2007 and got three stars two years later.

In Paris, I celebrated last month my ten years at Le Meurice where we have two Michelin stars. But I want also to emphasize two points. One, we also run starred restaurants elsewhere, notably in Thailand and Japan. Two, we propose a large array of different styles of restaurants like bistros or brasseries, not just starred ones.


AlUla has had an exciting collaboration with you for a distinctive gastronomic pop-up venture, could you tell us about that?

Chef Alain Ducasse (Second from left)
Chef Alain Ducasse (Second from left)

It’s our first operation in Saudi Arabia. AlUla is a verdant oasis located in the north-west of the country, not far from the Red Sea shore. It used to be an important stop on the Incense Road and some gorgeous archaeological remains can be found there, testimonies of a brilliant thousands-year old civilisation.

You’ve visited AlUla, could you tell us about the fine dining scenario there?
As soon as my first visit to AlUla, I was fascinated by this place mainly because of the contrast between the aridity of the desert and the abundant vegetation of the oasis. And also because of the rests of this ancient civilisation which bring us thousands of years back in the history of the country. As I said previously, I always start from the soul of the place to create a restaurant. Here, in AlUla, the inspiration was straight away and very potent.


Yours was the first oasis-to-table concept celebrating the vibrant palette of flavours unique to the county, could you tell us about this?
Yes, we propose a cuisine inspired by the Saudi culinary tradition yet executed with French contemporary techniques. Moreover, we source almost all our fruits and vegetables locally from the farms of the oasis.


Pop-up dining experience is catching up globally, could you tell us what made you opt for a pop-up?
Actually, the decision was very simple to make: since the restaurant is entirely open-aired, we have to adapt to the climate. From March on, the temperatures are too high to offer a pleasant atmosphere to our guests.

Signature Dishes

We are excited to know what culinary magic you whipped up at your pop-up in AlUla and what were your signature dishes.
On our menu, clients can find fish (for instance marinated bonito fish or wild hammour) and meat (lamb and even camel prepared like a confit). However, we give a large place to vegetables, be it cereals (like rice), leguminous (like lentils and chickpeas) and vegetables (beetroot, turnip, cauliflower, spinach, tomato, vine leaves). Fruits (pomegranate, lemon, Budha hand, walnut, date), herbs and spices (coriander, mint, tamarin, cardamon, cumin) also contribute to our recipes. All these meals can be considered as signature dishes since they are the exclusive creations of the restaurant.

Lastly, would you be open to setting up a fine dining restaurant in AlUla?
Never say never…

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