Doing it the Ducasse wayBy Margaux Salcedo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
There is French cooking. And then there is Alain Ducasse.
“You are meeting Alain Ducasse?” the concierge in my hotel in Paris said. “You must be a superstar!”
Well, I did not have the privilege of meeting chef Ducasse, so I’m clearly not a superstar. I am, however, a food enthusiast, so I was happy enough to meet with Sophie Journo of Ecole de Cuisine Alain Ducasse (ECAD), who showed me around the Ducasse “enthusiast school” in Paris.
The kitchens are no biggie, really—which reminds me of what Puff Daddy’s personal chef Jerrome Abustan once said: “If you’re a good chef, you won’t need a fancy kitchen. All you need is fire.”
Of course, these are dream kitchens at ECAD, so they are not exactly what you might have at home. But the idea is to offer just the basics.
“It’s supposed to look like a home kitchen,” Sophie explained.
There are four training kitchens: Olive, Cepe, Truffe and Piment rooms, each named after the room’s color, each loaded with pots and pans and equipped with enough stoves for a class.
Can tourists have classes on French cooking for a day here, I asked Sophie. Apparently, yes, it can be arranged.
They also have a lot of corporate events, like team-building sessions for executives who are made to prepare meals for each other.
France is quite a distance, but the Philippines has the privilege of being the first country, outside of France, that Alain Ducasse Institute has partnered with. Its home is at Enderun Colleges at the Fort.
If you want more serious training, they also have one-day or five-day courses (aside from the certificate courses). But for the ladies who lunch, retirees with a lot of time, social climbers
who want to learn how to pronounce and serve foie gras correctly, Martha Stewart mothers, and the rest of us, there’s a cook-and-serve course: you learn to cook from Ducasse-trained chefs, then enjoy what you cooked with fine wine. Sounds like a great party!
Of course, you can do this in your home—just hire a chef! But at the Ducasse Institute, you are pampered with Ducasse techniques, skills and philosophies. The Ducasse chef will share not-so-secret secrets that have made Alain Ducasse one of today’s global culinary icons.
Ducasse is one of the most Michelin-starred chefs in the world. He is the first chef to run restaurants carrying three Michelin stars in three cities.
He is one of only two chefs in the world to hold 21 Michelin stars throughout his career. And he just received the Lifetime Award from the World’s Best Restaurant Awards this year. ’Yun lang naman.
At La Cour Jardin at Plaza Athénée in Paris, one of the many restaurants under Ducasse’s wing, now under the supervision of sous chef Romain Meder, Ducasse philosophies come alive.
Summer vegetables are served in a cookpot that he designed himself. A simple salad uses Barolo vinegar. The dory is accented with multicolored tomatoes. And dessert is not plate art, but performance art, where the pouring of chocolate syrup on a chocolate dome reveals sweet surprises underneath.
I highly doubt anyone will be able to absorb all these philosophies in one afternoon; chef Meder took five years to embrace the Ducasse philosophy, climbing his way from commis to sous chef.
But at least you’ll learn a few basics on how to make your chosen ingredients shine and how to make the most of your market produce. Then, with enough wine, I’m sure you’ll feel like a Ducasse superstar!
Ducasse Institute Philippines is at Enderun Colleges. For a short course, look for Florence Elumba. Call tel. nos. 8565000 loc. 505 or 525.
More details and photos at margauxlicious.com.