Alain Ducasse On His New Memoir and Most Memorable Meals

Alain Ducasse can taste butter and know if it was mixed by hand or with an electric mixer. He can tell where on the farm the cows who provided the milk were pasturing, and if it had been raining there lately. “Dude could taste the weather,” recounted Dan Barber, the chef of Blue Hill at Stone Barns and maker of the butter in question, in the foreword of Ducasse’s new book, Good Taste: A Life of Food and Passion.

The anecdote offers compelling evidence that Ducasse — one of the world’s most influential and decorated chefs, who oversees 34 restaurants in Paris, London, and Tokyo in addition to an acclaimed culinary school —  is a supertaster. Though when asked about it during a conversation about his book over the weekend at the Chef Conference in Philadelphia, he deflected. 

“Everyone can learn to taste,” he told the audience, “but it is important to keep the memory of the taste.” He recalls tasting butter similar to Barber’s on his family’s farm after rainfall, 50 years ago.

Alain Ducasse's Gougères
In Good Taste, the renowned chef recounts with rich detail the food of his childhood, spent on a farm in the south-west of France. His diet included “sun-drenched tomatoes” and “peas gathered and eaten raw” from his grandmother’s garden, and mushrooms his family collected from the surrounding forest.

His reverence for the abundant fresh produce led him to prominently feature plants in an elevated way that was ahead of its time, and he eventually established a cuisine he calls naturalité that centers around vegetables — plus grains and sustainable fish. 

Among the other influences on Ducasse’s culinary career were his mother’s copies of Cuisine et Vins de France, or French Food and Wine. “I remember the first dessert that I made, it was a French chocolate log,” the chef told Food & Wine. “And I wonder if the recipe might have come from the magazine.” It was after successfully making the dessert, at age 12, that he told his mother he would be a chef. 

9 Legendary Paris Restaurants That Live Up to the Hype
Travel plays a big role in his life’s work, from the first time he tasted the bounty of produce in the Mediterranean, like globe artichoke and white aubergine, to one of his most memorable meals abroad in Kyoto, Japan. It was a vegan dish cooked by Toshio Tanahashi, the chef known for his plant-based Buddhist cuisine.

“The flavors were subtle — it was more neutral in taste, modest in seasoning and texture,” he said. “It was a dish that was expressing nature in all its simplicity.” 

Alain Ducasse On His New Memoir and Most Memorable Meals, Good Taste: A Life of Food and Passion.
'Good Taste,' Alain Ducasse's new memoir is out this week. GALLIC BOOKS
Another memorable meal from his travels, in New York City from Chef Michael White, was “an extraordinary beef sandwich made with good bread and perfectly cooked meat,” Ducasse said. “It was like a haute couture beef sandwich, the memory of it is set in my mind. There is perfection in every type of food.”

‘The Bear’ Star Matty Matheson Makes Angry Flaming Spaghetti, and It’s Legit
While tasting is arguably the most essential aspect of his job, not everything moves Ducasse the same way. During his visit to Philadelphia, the chef tasted a cheesesteak, the city’s signature sandwich made with thinly shaved steak doused (in his case) in technicolored Cheez Whiz.

His takeaway? Instead of commenting on the taste, the chef, who embraces learning from every experience, praised the shop’s robust business. 

“So many people come to order the Philly cheesesteak each day, so that's impressive, it’s good for business,” he said. Then, after thinking about it a little more, he continued, “There is a taste for everyone.”
Close Menu