Time for new 'gold standard', says star French chef Ducasse

Looking out over his global empire of gourmet restaurants, star-studded tables reaching from Tokyo to the Eiffel Tower, French chef Alain Ducasse decided this spring it was time for something new.

So he took the menu of the Plaza Athenee, the flagship three-star restaurant that graces the luxury Parisian hotel, and decided to strip it back to basics - in what he believes may herald a radical new food trend.

"I want to remind people of the taste of bread and butter," Ducasse told AFP over a seven-course tasting session in the kitchens of the five-star hotel, on Paris' ultra-chic Avenue Montaigne.

"The best bread, toasted just so, and served with butter at exactly the right temperature," he enthused, wolfing down slice after fragrant slice of the thick, crusty bread sourced from one of the capital's best boulangeries.

Produce - bought in the right place, at just the right time of year to ensure peak quality - is at the heart of the new menu, unveiled this week to the hotel's elite international clientele.

"We've never been about bling-bling - but now we are definitively going to get back to essentials," Ducasse said. "There are no accessories - just like a very beautiful woman does not need accessories."

Of course, diners will be left in no doubt where they are - seated under the vast chandeliers of the hotel's hushed, opulent interior.

But, said Ducasse, "we are are no longer in a cuisine of pomp and ceremony. There will be more luxury in the decor - but more purity in the plate."

"Veal, Carrots" or "Vegetables, Fruits" - Ducasse's new dishes sound a far cry from the poetic elaboration that defines gourmet menus the world over, and nowhere more so than in France.

"Our modest ambition is to set a new gold standard for veal, duck, beef," said the chef.

Dishes of no more than three ingredients will aim, he said, to "define the essence of taste."

"Cuisine has become too complicated - this is about subject, verb, adjective: duck, turnips, sauce."

When a customer orders beef he will be brought a two-foot rib, unadorned, to the table, from which to choose his slice: "If they are real meat-lovers, they'll go for it," Ducasse wagered. "Otherwise you shouldn't be eating meat!"

Likewise, "the sole is the same - but we are going to leave it just that little bit firmer. We are daring to present the product as it is."

To give his new concept shape Ducasse brought in Christophe Saintagne - who has spent over a decade working for him, and the past two years overseeing his tables in France, Britain and Japan - to take over the Plaza kitchens.

"We wanted to make the cuisine simpler, more readable - not cuisine for the sake of demonstration," Saintagne told AFP.

As an appetiser Saintagne served up two poor man's dishes - strips of smoky pork lard and meagre fish, served side by side on cubes of almost-burned bread, in a fold of red-and-white butcher's paper.

Followed tiny shrimps, the heads sauteed first, the bodies peeled and lightly seized, then eaten straight out of a cast-iron pan with a pinch of salt, butter and a single clove of garlic.

Next came a variation on the cepe - a trio of hotpot, salad and broth with the forest mushroom virtually as sole ingredient: "I want to translate the very word 'cepe' into a flavour," said Ducasse.

Likewise, carrots, beetroot, celery, quince, are simmered individually to keep their full strength, before being piled together in a plate.

"Lobster, Potatoes," or "Strawberries, Cream, Meringue" followed the same mantra - "defining the essence of taste."

In recent years Ducasse has been best known as an entrepreneur-chef, with more than two dozen tables around the world collecting star after Michelin star - often earning the suggestion that he spreads himself too thinly.

But in the past Ducasse has been credited with launching food trends that later went viral - like the revival of Mediterranean-style cuisine in the mid-1990s.

At the Plaza, he said, "we had a beautiful machine, but it was just snoring away. I don't know if people will like it, but the road I want to take may just be the start of a new trend."

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
News
i100
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
News
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
video
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
people
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little