Makan

Top French chef Alain Ducasse chases perfection

Alain Ducasse uses tech to finesse dining experience

MACAU As one of the world's most decorated chefs, Alain Ducasse is known for his forensic attention to detail - from thrice-ironed tablecloth to handpicked decor and cutlery.

The 62-year-old is arguably the doyen of France's "grande cuisine". His eateries have 20 Michelin stars, more than any living contemporary, and three of his restaurants have the coveted three-star accolade.

But just as Ducasse - who boasts more than 30 restaurants across seven countries - blends tradition and modernity in his menus, he sees tech as a way to finesse the dining experience. It is through social media that he discovered Benoit, his popular New York bistro, was messing up a classic French dish.

"Looking at the customer reviews, we realised there was an issue. Everyone was complaining about the roast chicken," said Ducasse during a visit in Macau.

"It was unbelievable."

He said this helped them spot and fix the issue immediately.

That Ducasse personally monitors the social media of all his restaurants is indicative of a man who insists on maintaining control of his businesses.

"Before we opened here, we spent three years choosing every detail. I know every object, there was a lot of personal involvement," Ducasse said of his eponymous restaurant in Macau at the Morpheus, a new 40-storey luxury hotel.

Morpheus, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary, earned two Michelin stars within six months. Ducasse's arrival in Macau was fortuitous.

The gambling hub has been ordered by Beijing to become a more family-friendly destination, leading to a surge in fine dining given the plethora of well-heeled, primarily Chinese tourists that flock to the city. It now boasts three three-star restaurants and five two-stars.

Ducasse's first foray into Asia began 15 years ago in Japan, followed by Hong Kong and then Macau. Later this year, he plans to open a restaurant in a glitzy Bangkok mall and a Mediterranean-influenced grill in Singapore's Raffles hotel.

But Asian cooking is something he never plans to take on.

"I am not going to be a sushi master because it takes 10 years to learn to be a master of sushi. I do not have enough time," he said. Customers in Asia, said Ducasse, are looking for the best of French cooking.

The one foreign cuisine he feels more comfortable incorporating into his top-end restaurants is Middle Eastern fare - something France understands because of its colonial footprint.

Much of his cooking inevitably caters to the 1 per cent - the tasting menu at Le Louis XV in Monaco clocks in at US$410 (S$556) a head. But followers of Ducasse's food empire have noticed a shift in recent years to more accessible eateries. New openings such as Spoon 2 in Paris, Omer in Monaco - even the Singapore and Bangkok ventures - are more brasserie than haute cuisine. - AFP

Food & Drink