Ducasse at home with his “naturalist” cuisine in times of crisis

When you are confined and stress pushes you towards fatty and sweet dishes, the most starred chef in the world, Alain Ducasse, comes to your home with his “naturalistic” cuisine, imagined for a palace and which “takes to the streets” in times of crisis.

The concept of “naturalness”, which banishes meat and reduces butter to a minimum, these bases of traditional French cuisine, was conceived six years ago for the restaurant “Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée” in Paris, 3 stars Michelin, closed since the second confinement after a brief reopening.

Prepared with the same products as at the Plaza by the chef of this restaurant, Romain Meder, the “popular” menu called Naturaliste is now delivered to Paris for an average price of 22 euros. A take-away offer that is added to those of pâtés, foie gras or beef cheeks with bacon from the traditional bistros of Alain Ducasse which already delivered during the first confinement.

“It’s time to take care of the planet, eat ethically and sustainably,” Alain Ducasse told AFP.

– Carrot and apple 3 stars –

Shortly before the reconfinement, he published “Le Grand livre de la Naturalité” which recounts the evolution of his approach, co-signed with Romain Meder and Jessica Préalpato, pastry chef of “Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athénée”, and consecrated best pastry chef at the world by ranking 50 Best in 2019.

“Stress can direct us towards fatty foods, too salty, too sweet, too much everything. This is the moment to be careful, hence this orientation towards + naturalness +” for a larger public, declares Alain Ducasse, awarded 21 stars for its restaurants around the world.

It is in the kitchens of the Parisian bistro Aux Lyonnais that Romain Meder concocts the “Naturaliste” menu, vegetal with a little fish, and where corn or chickpeas, canned foods banal in the collective imagination, are ennobled.

One of the dishes is built around the carrot, his favorite vegetable, which he works in its entirety, as in the 3 stars.

“I assume that the carrot cannot be served without the tops because they are part of the taste of the carrot,” Romain Meder told AFP. The peelings will be used to make a lemonade which, reduced, will give a slightly sour caramel.

Dehydrated, rehydrated, fermented or cooked in foil with seaweed: “With a carrot, we manage to make powerful flavors, dishes that have a lot of character,” he says.

The same goes for the apple of Jessica Préalpato, one of the last desserts created for the palace. “I did not cut it as I could have done before, into small pieces (…). You have an apple that arrives, worked of course, dehydrated, rehydrated with a condiment inside”, says she.

An even more radical version of “desseralité”, a variation of “naturalness” for dessert, which she conceives with very little sugar – just like a seasoning -.

– Democratization –

If this haute cuisine is in hibernation during the health crisis, Alain Ducasse believes that it will always have its place.

“It’s like haute couture. One of the raison d’être of gastronomy is haute cuisine. And French haute cuisine is essentially the flagship (flag carrier) of world gastronomy”.

In the meantime, the chef is trying to democratize his bistros, like Allard in Saint-Germain-des-Prés where he invited in mid-October Alexia Duchêne, 24, semi-finalist of the very popular show of M6 Top Chef. “I told him: we give you the keys, you do what you want”, says Alain Ducasse.

It offers a menu around 30 euros at noon and 60 euros in the evening, well below the usual ticket, to attract a young Parisian audience in the absence of tourists, a project currently on hold because of the confinement.

It is Alain Ducasse’s chocolate factory that works the best. “Chocolate is doing well, in a period of stress and uncertainty. It’s a little pleasure, not too expensive, like the snack bar between 6 and 7 euros”.

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