My life in travel: Alain Ducasse
‘Everything I didn’t learn in the kitchen, I discovered by travelling the world’
Friday 07 December 2012
First holiday memory?
During the early years of my career, holidays were a nice concept but not a reality. The first trips I enjoyed were when I was working at Le Louis XV in Monaco. I was in my early thirties and used to explore Provence on my motorcycle.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
It may sound desperately banal, but London. I love walking around Billingsgate or Borough markets, having a bite to eat from the stalls. I’m also an avid collector of luggage, so I frequently visit Bentleys Antiques in Knightsbridge, which has gorgeous pieces.
Short breaks with my wife and children in our country house in the French Basque Country. I love the shifting light and colours of the landscape in that region.
What have you learnt from your travels?
Everything I didn’t learn in kitchen I discovered by travelling the world. It’s one of my major sources of inspiration, an opportunity to meet colleagues and producers, and to taste new products and recipes.
Ideal travelling companion?
Empty luggage – so I can bring home everything I fall in love with on the road. Japan is where I’m the most tempted. When I’m in Tokyo or Kyoto, I usually find tableware that’s incredibly refined and elegant, made by talented craftsmen. Some are now in my restaurant in the Plaza Athénée in Paris.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
Cuisine addict. I taste everything considered edible from all the culinary cultures in the world – animal or vegetable, raw or cooked.
Greatest travel luxury?
A smooth trip. Having a holiday where the departure and arrival is on time, and the hotel room is exactly as you booked it, tends to be an exception rather than the routine these days.
The press. When getting ready for a holiday, I pack all the magazines and newspapers I haven’t had time to read in my luggage. I’ll also buy other publications when I arrive, even in languages I can’t read.
Where has seduced you?
The Mediterranean Riviera – all the way from Nice in France to Genoa across the Italian border with gorgeous Monaco in the middle. The landscape is breathtaking, and the produce from the land and sea is exceptional. This is where I found my culinary roots.
Better to travel or arrive?
To arrive – because that’s when the action starts. I’ve just opened a new restaurant called IDAM in Doha, so I’ve been travelling frequently to Qatar. I still remember the first time I arrived in this unfamiliar country: I was struck by the mix of light, heat and modernity.
Worst travel experience?
Being at a hotel many years ago in Brittany when they forgot my wake-up call. As a result, I missed the early-morning plane I had planned to Paris. I was due to catch a connecting flight at Charles de Gaulle to New York, too. Obviously, I missed it and my entire trip was a mess.
Paris. I always discover myriad tiny passages and impressive views from the bridges across the Seine. The seasons pass, the light changes and the city takes on a different look.
Best meal abroad?
I’ve visited at least one restaurant a day for the past 20 years, eating superb meals in New York, London and Tokyo, and many more remarkable restaurants in a host of smaller cities too.
Recently, though, in New York, I had my best French fries at Pommes Frites in the East Village, exceptional smoked salmon at Russ & Daughters in the Lower East Side, and the most amazing slice of pie at Four & Twenty Blackbirds in Brooklyn.
Back to New York to promote my latest book and meet friends and colleagues.
J’aime New York by the Michelin-starred chef and restaurateur is published by Hardie Grant, £35
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