Alain Ducasse

Alain Ducasse on women in the kitchen, and Paris after the attacks

He fought back from being the sole survivor of a plane crash to create a restaurant empire spanning seven countries (and 20 Michelin stars). Alain Ducasse tells young chef Laoise Casey about changing macho kitchen culture, terror-struck Paris – and what a master of haute cuisine rustles up for a family lunch

French connection: Why it's emotion rather than technique that drives

It's 18 months since Hélène Darroze came over from Paris to set up her own restaurant at the venerable Connaught Hotel in the heart of London's Mayfair. A fine bloody time, everybody said, to introduce extra-super-fine dining to the bruised tycoons and trust-fund kids of the metropolis, whose investments had just plummeted by 40 per cent. Ms Darroze clearly wasn't bothered. There was something positively cheeky in the way she served up her oyster tartare with Aquitaine caviar jelly with a tiny, edible gold leaf on the top.

Grand fromage: Alain Ducasse flies the flag for classic French haute

For a man who is, by general consent, the most distinguished French chef in the world, who holds 15 Michelin stars, has published 16 cookbooks and inspired no fewer than 27 restaurants, Alain Ducasse is a strangely low-key figure. World-famous as a brand, he is virtually anonymous as a person. Gourmets who could talk for hours about his Pithiviers de canard et foie gras would find it hard to identify him in a police line-up. He may have trained a generation of chefs who run key London restaurants (Hélène Darroze at the Connaught, Claude Bosi at Hibiscus, Alexis Gauthier at Roussillon) but you'll never see him on reality TV shows, like his countryman Raymond Blanc.

My Secret Life: Hélène Darroze, chef, 41

Born 23 February, 1967, in Mont-de-Marsan, south-west France, Hélène Darroze is a Michelin star-awarded chef. She started out as Alain Ducasse's right hand woman at the Louis XV restaurant in Monte Carlo before going on to win two Michelin stars at her eponymous restaurant on the Left Bank in Paris. She is currently head chef at The Connaught in London