World chefs: Alain Ducasse on technology, terroir and tippling

Tue Apr 9, 2013 5:31am EDT
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By Alexandria Sage

PARIS (Reuters) - Talking food with top French chef Alain Ducasse is like simultaneously visiting a local farmers market, travelling across the world, stepping back into history and visiting the future.

France's ubiquitous three-star chef, whose empire includes more than 20 restaurants, a culinary institute and a publishing house, is now embracing 21st century technology with a new iPad application, "My Culinary Encyclopedia".

With 250 recipes from the Mon Grand Livre de Cuisine collection, the app offers ingredient profiles with 360 degree views, demonstration videos, and preparation tips. Ducasse, 56, spoke to Reuters in the kitchen of his Plaza Athenee restaurant about what inspires him today and how much is yet to learn.

Q: One doesn't think of great chefs as being enamored of technology. Why an app?

A: I'm all about transmitting knowledge. In cooking today it's about technical performance, cooking tools that have developed to help cooks to be more regular in cooking technique. And this technology here helps us to transmit knowledge, it's the modern book. Today a kitchen is a laboratory, it's very technical. Before it was a nightmare because it was so hot, you had gas ovens and you had to test the temperature with your finger. But just a quarter century later we've changed centuries. Our profession was so difficult 25, 30 years ago but today (cooking) is comfortable, appealing.

Q: Do you see clients in your restaurants consulting their iPads at the table before they begin to eat?

A: Of course. We want to know everything about everything. Before eating, the client is going to explain what he's about to eat. Even beforehand he's going to weigh in, it's good, it's not good, he takes a photo and then everyone knows what he's eating. But it's the limit of the exercise. You should first take pleasure before weighing in about it. It's first of all a chance to share a pleasant moment with your friends, to take the time with your food and not to make commentary.

Q: What inspires you?   Continued...

French chef Alain Ducasse poses with an Ipad during an interview with Reuters at the Plaza Athenee Hotel in Paris April 2, 2013. REUTERS/Charles Platiau