Food & Drink

Alain Ducasse: gastronomy and the bet of eco-responsibility

Amaury Bouhours, young chef at the restaurant Le Meurice is part of the new guard trained by Alain Ducasse’s ethics. His sustainability principles are contributing to the commercial success of the Alain Ducasse Empire.

Eva Morletto

By Eva Morletto25 janvier 2022

Alain Ducasse, starred chef, has entrusted the reins of his Parisian restaurant to Amaury Bouhours, who remains faithful to his eco-friendly principles (DR)

Amaury Bouhours, the young and talented chef to whom Alain Ducasse gave leadership of the two-star Parisian restaurant of Hôtel Meurice (Dorchester collection) considers himself true to his mentor’s eco-responsible principles. He embodies the concept of an innovative and responsible cuisine, respectful of the environment, of product quality and of seasonality. He learned everything with Alain Ducasse, whom he met several years ago at the “Louix XV”, the Hôtel de Paris establishment in Monaco. He tells: “Yes, we have chosen to bet on local sourcing, and it is a success. Indeed, the organic criteria, which are eco-responsible and qualitative are generating costs which can double, even triple compared to industrial sourcing. Yet, this choice doesn’t only benefit the produces’ quality, but business as a whole if culinary art were to no longer be virtuous.”

We have chosen to bet on local sourcing, and it is a success. This choice doesn’t only benefit the produces’ quality, but business as a whole if culinary art were to no longer be virtuous.

Alain Ducasse

In the kitchens of the Parisian palace "Le Meurice" with chef Amaury Bouhours, head of the gastronomic restaurant and successor to Alain Ducasse (DR)

A trailblazer in the field, Alain Ducasse has been advocating for a reasoned food supply for a long time. To eat less but better is now a widely known motto in the world of gastronomy. Amaury Bouhours continues: “When I talk about global rise, I mean the fact that this approach enables paying producers and artisans in an equitable way, by relaunching local economy. It bets on a system which doesn’t exploit resources, lands, or fish stocks. The latter can therefore renew themselves in a harmonious way, and easily regenerate.”

Today, more and more farmers are launching quality productions and would rather be in direct commercial contact with representatives of high gastronomy rather than with distributors. In a gastronomic restaurant, raw materials can represent up to 30% of the price of menus. “We guarantee our suppliers a revenue which considers the exceptional properties of offered produces, explains Amaury Bouhours. Negotiations are done directly, bypassing the distribution stage.”

In a gastronomic restaurant, raw materials can represent up to 30% of the price of menus. Quality production is guaranteed by a direct commercial relationship between the farmers and the representatives of the haute cuisine (DR)

Five years ago, Alain Ducasse had even launched a “Restaurateur de Qualité” label, to identify restaurants which offer transparency on produces, and favor a direct relationship with suppliers, as well as work in an artisanal manner. “Sometimes, the industrial system adopts reflexes which are far from natural law. Clients are often not aware that industrial farms feed fish with animal bonemeal, which is an anti-natural process. We favor angling and short circuits, which guarantee that taste and nutrition remain intact. Today, we work almost exclusively with French produce, about 95%. The 5% remaining are exotic products like coffee or chocolate” explains the chef.

Small producer networks for coffee and cocoa developed by Alain Ducasse in tropical regions

Alain Ducasse introduced the "Restaurateur de Qualité" label 5 years ago to distinguish restaurants offering total transparency of products. Here the "Le Meurice" room. (DR)

At the heart of the eleventh Parisian arrondissement, two manufactures pay tribute to the best coca beans and locally torrefied coffee: le Chocolat and le Café by Alain Ducasse. The three-star chef favors small productions, as the one of the “Geisha” coffee, a variety originally from Ethiopia also called the champagne of the coffee world for its quality and exceptional virtue. It is one of the most expensive coffee beans in the world, as its cost can reach 2.25 euros per gram. The precious variety is harvested in the finca Mil Cumbres in Panama, a small entrepreneurship venture.

We have control over the sourcing network from start to end, from land to plate.

Amaury Bouhours, chef of the Gastronomic restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse

The approach constantly favors local networks and pushes producers to bet on an artisanal production. Amaury Bouhours continues: “We use these types of coffee and chocolates in our restaurants’ pastries. We therefore have control over the sourcing network from start to end, from land to plate. Mister Ducasse has been committed to this for years. By producing locally, we limit the CO2 emissions and control traceability. Regarding French producers, we know them all. We avoid any risk of greenwashing or false ecological practices. But these choices involve a great logistical capacity and significant organization. Everything isn’t always simple and fluid. By exclusively working with seasonal products which need to ripen, we have to constantly imagine new menus in sync with the natural rhythm of production.”

Stimulating creativity

“When I am out of ideas sometimes, I visit one of our producers and their latest harvest, which will suddenly help me project myself into a new dish, explains the chef. Almost every vegetable has a producer, as lands have organoleptical characteristics according to different altitudes, climate, humidity. Each produce has its own “ideal habitat” and one has to find where it is best located.”

We developed a process to crush empty shells of oysters. The latter, mixed with seaweeds and sand, transform into a material resembling glass, and we can produce plates and tableware with them.

Amaury Bouhours, chef of the Gastronomic restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse

A zero waste policy has been put in place controlling the entire circuit from supply to waste disposal. Here the Kermancy Oysters from the restaurant (DR).

This requirement is supported by a zero-waste policy which controls the network from supply to waste disposal. Amaury Bouhours explains: “Along with several artisans, we developed a process to crush empty shells of oysters. The latter, mixed with seaweeds and sand, transform into a material resembling glass, and we can produce plates and tableware with them.”

With a turnover valued at over 115 million euros, Alain Ducasse’s empire does not cease to invent new ideas to convey the principles of eating better. One of his latest conceptions concerns the creation of a culinary art campus over 5500 square meters large, located in Meudon, in the Hauts de Seine, a project valued at 23 million euros of investment. It is destined to becoming the global reference in training for culinary art and pastries.

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