French chef Alain Ducasse rejects the easy 'wow' at Le Meurice

Mon Sep 9, 2013 9:27am EDT
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By Alexandria Sage

PARIS (Reuters) - In "the prettiest dining room in Paris," hidden behind gilded glass doors at the opulent Le Meurice hotel, Michelin-starred French chef Alain Ducasse is not interested in spectacle.

As Ducasse and his head chef, Christophe Saintagne, launch a new menu that eschews over-worked, over-decorated and overly pretentious food, understatement is even the order of the day in the centerpieces - an heirloom tomato set atop a copper mold.

In an interview days before Le Meurice Restaurant's reopening on Monday, the entrepreneur whose empire includes over 20 international restaurants said he wants the cooking, stripped bare of excess and reduced to its essence, to do the wowing in the light, bright dining room that overlooks the famous Tuileries gardens.

"We're not going to give you something showy here, we're going to give you flavors, tastes, products, seasoning, cooking. Justice," said Ducasse.

"It will be a clear message on the plate so that when you finish the plate it's clear. There is no confusion in tastes," he said. "The wow effect is the taste."

The two chefs already collaborate at the Plaza Athenee's three-star restaurant, but that hotel, also owned by luxury hotel operator Dorchester Group, is currently undergoing a partial renovation.

Opening restaurants and experimenting with new menus are challenges Ducasse said he thrives on, adding he would be "very frustrated" if he had to limit himself to just one restaurant.

"I want to tell a different story here, a contemporary French cuisine in a very, very Parisian address, very, very elegant, because I think it's the prettiest dining room in Paris," said Ducasse, one of France's most trusted voices on haute gastronomie.   Continued...

French chef Alain Ducasse poses in the dining room at the Le Meurice Restaurant in Paris September 4, 2013. REUTERS/Charles Platiau