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Chef Alain Ducasse, one of the world’s most decorated chefs, is heading the recently re-opened IDAM restaurant in the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar.
Ducasse is currently at the helm of three restaurants, each awarded three Michelin stars in Monaco, Paris and London. wknd. spoke with Ducasse about his latest outpost in the Arabian Gulf.
Edited excerpts from an exclusive interview:
What’s been the most defining moment of your life? How did that change your outlook?
It was in my childhood when I decided to become a cook against the wish of my parents who would have preferred that I became a farmer like them. It was also when Prince Rainier III entrusted me with the responsibility of the restaurant Le Louis XV in Monaco. The Michelin stars, which I gained there, made a huge difference for the entire industry, especially that until then, none of the palaces offered high cuisine in their restaurants. Yet, as important as these events were, I feel they are now history. I would prefer to turn to the future and mention more recent milestones. I would cite the opening of the Manufacture de chocolat in 2013 and, in the following years, the opening of the Manufactures de café, de glace and, quite recently, de biscuit. This has had a major impact on our business, developing a new model, distinct from the hospitality one.
You learned to love food from your grandmother. You received your first three-star Michelin rating — for Le Louis XV, in Monaco — when you were only 33 and now are one of only two chefs in the world to hold 20 Michelin stars in his career, with an empire of more than 20 restaurants. How has the journey been so far? What is the recipe behind such consistent success?
The recipe is very simple: work more, quicker and better than the others. More seriously, if you want to succeed, you must not be afraid to fail. Because one learns from a set of consequent failures and mistakes. Adding to that, I would say that you never succeed alone: if we are able to run so many restaurants, manufactures and the training schools, it’s because I was able to gather the exceptional talents and professionals who contribute to building such a huge successful empire.
Elaborate your role as the creative tour de force behind the brand.
I am the art director of my company. It means that I have a vision. I give the impetus and then my team implements the idea. I am fortunate enough to have great professionals around me who have been working with me for ten, twenty or even thirty years. They are perfectly imbued with my philosophy.
Your restaurants serve multiple international cuisines reaching global audiences. How do you manage to integrate the influence of French cuisine with local resources?
This is a very important point to be explained and to do so, we have to explain what French cuisine is. Many people still think that French cuisine is about recipes. In fact, French cuisine is overall a question of techniques. Take for instance cooking (cuire in French). French cuisine uses a vast repertoire for that: to boil, to steam, to braise, to poach, to roast, to simmer, to stir-fry, etc. The same could be said about the multiple ways of cutting vegetables. French cuisine also offers a vast array of techniques to prepare sauces and juices. If you bear that in mind, you realise that French cuisine perfectly applies everywhere, whatever the local resources are.
What is the most challenging thing about running a global culinary empire?
I don’t run an empire. In essence, the Maison Ducasse is a collection of craftsmanship. We are glocal: we have a global vision, but we act locally. The global vision is about the key challenges our industry is facing and the local implementation seizes the opportunities.
What are a few fundamental concepts that must always be present in a Ducasse venue?
We strive all our efforts to be the best in each venue’s category, from the haute cuisine to more accessible offers. However, this requires setting certain standards and criteria for being the best. I would specify it by delivering a specific feeling, which gives the venue its own unique character. In other words, each of our venues tells its own story.
Given your countless commitments and the continuous tech developments across the industry, how do you manage to keep the standards of your restaurants at the highest?
In our industry, quality comes first and foremost, it is a matter of human resources. Therefore, training and motivation are essential.
What do you think of the gastronomical scene in Qatar?
It’s a permanent evolution. A vast number of internationally renowned chefs are opening tables and parallelly, local talents are blossoming. Qatar is at the crossroad of many different culinary cultures, from Europe, the Middle East, Asia and even Latin America. It results in an incredibly flamboyant mosaic of proposals.
Can you tell us more about the distinguished concepts of Jiwan and IDAM in Doha, especially that they balance perfectly between culinary brilliance and exquisite design?
Jiwan is located at the National Museum of Qatar and IDAM is located at the Museum of Islamic Art. Both iconic buildings are remarkable from an architectural viewpoint and deserve a distinctive cuisine. At IDAM, our cuisine is very much inspired by the Mediterranean. At Jiwan, we interpret traditional Arabic culture with French techniques to come up with a very contemporary version of the local cuisine.
Any plans for new openings across the Middle East?
I never talk about projects before they become reality.
Lastly, what’s the final frontier in the gastronomy scene that’s left to be conquered?
We, inhabitants of planet earth, are facing a considerable challenge: how to feed us without exhausting the natural resources of the planet. It requires a new approach to agriculture, a more durable way of fishing and a more responsible use of water. And it also demands we change our eating habits, with more plant-based options and less meat. The chefs have a role to play, by encouraging producers who are working in accordance with nature and by contributing to consumers’ education.
Ducasse Paris is deploying its activity in food, restaurant, hospitality, education and consulting. The company constantly develops innovative ideas and ensures their sustainability. Its continuous pursuit of excellence is based on the talent of men and women, the quality of the produce and a great savoir-faire. President and Founder, Alain Ducasse is the company’s inspiration and is dedicated to offer a fair cuisine, transmission of knowledge and developing a responsible vision of his profession.
What is Jiwan?
Jiwan, where the desert meets the sea, was conceived and brought to life by renowned tastemaker, Chef Creator Alain Ducasse, and prominent architect, Koichi Takada. Together, they have created a dining experience that enables guests to truly feel, touch, and taste the essence of Qatar.
Jiwan takes guests on a sensory journey through Qatar’s heritage and landscape. Guests travel from the desert to the sea with interior dining areas inspired by the sand dunes of the Inland Sea (Khor Al Udaid) and an impressive outdoor terrace that offers panoramic views of Doha’s Corniche.
Jiwan honours Qatar’s ancient bedouin cooking techniques. Fire, water, air, and earth are used to transform textures, add nuances to natural ingredients, and present Qatari cuisine in a new and exciting way.
Jiwan is named after the Qatari word for the ‘perfect pearl’, rose-tinted white, completely round with a lustre so pure that it comes alive with radiance.
IDAM by Alain Ducasse
Launched in 2013 as the foray of globally renowned restaurateur and Michelin starred Chef Alain Ducasse into the Middle East, the restaurant offers the highest standard of French Mediterranean cuisine infused with Arabic hospitality.
Guests at IDAM by Alain Ducasse experience French Mediterranean cuisine with a twist of eclectic Arabian flavours. Its location on the top floor of the Museum of Islamic Art celebrates an iconic landmark in Qatar in an environment that seamlessly blends local tradition with modernity.
With its proximity to such impressive surroundings, nestled under the dome of the museum, IDAM celebrates high ideals and sophistication, steeped in the Islamic golden age.
IDAM’s concept is designed by Philippe Starck, creating a spectacular, elegant interior that maintains a balance between modernity and classicism, delivering a dynamic environment with Arabian touches.
IDAM means generosity towards the care and attention that is paid to guests.
Qatar Museums (QM), the nation’s preeminent institution for art and culture, provides authentic and inspiring cultural experiences through a growing network of museums, heritage sites, festivals, public art installations, and programmes. QM preserves, restores, and expands the nation’s cultural offerings and historical sites, sharing art and culture from Qatar, the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia (MENASA) region with the world and enriching the lives of citizens, residents, and visitors.
Under the patronage of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and led by its Chairperson, Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, QM has made Qatar a vibrant centre for the arts, culture, and education in the Middle East and beyond. QM is integral to the goal of developing an innovative, diverse, and progressive nation, bringing people together to ignite new thinking, spark critical cultural conversations, educate and encourage environmental stewardship and sustainable practices, and amplify the voices of Qatar’s people. Since its founding in 2005, QM has overseen the Museum of Islamic Art and MIA Park, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, the National Museum of Qatar, QM Gallery Al Riwaq, QM Gallery Katara, 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum, and Dadu, Children’s Museum of Qatar.
Through its newly created Creative Hub, QM also initiates and supports projects — such as the Fire Station Artist in Residence, the Tasweer Qatar Photo Festival and the creative hub for innovation, fashion and design M7— that nurture artistic talent and create opportunities to build a strong and sustainable cultural infrastructure.
Animating everything that Qatar Museums does is an authentic connection to Qatar and its heritage, a steadfast commitment to inclusivity and accessibility, and a belief in creating value through invention.
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