Alain Ducasse was born in 1956 on a farm in the Landes region, he discovered the tastes of produce at an early age. At 16, the young cook entered a restaurant in France’s southwest, then left to train with chefs such as Michel Guérard, Gaston Lenôtre, Alain Chapel and Roger Vergé, with whom he discovered provincial cuisine.
In 2005, Alain Ducasse became the first chef to have 3 restaurants awarded with 3 Michelin stars at the same time.
In the heart of the Museum of Islamic Art at a tip of the Arabian Peninsula, there’s IDAM by Alain Ducasse. An exceptional decor by Philippe Starck and a refined Mediterranean cuisine with a touch of influence from the Middle East.
You have a lot of different restaurants in your portfolio. You manage three in Doha as well: Jiwan, IDAM and Cafe #999 were your first footprints in the Arabic world. What have you learned from this market?
We are having a very exciting experience in Qatar. We opened IDAM back in January 2013, Jiwan was launched in 2019 and Café #999 opened at the beginning of this year. What strikes me is how much the country changed over time. Somehow, the acceleration of changes brought by the World Cup is just the tip of the iceberg.
As a cook, I am passionate about the culinary scene of Qatar. One can say it is nourished by the Arabic food tradition. Yet, on the other hand, it is also very cosmopolitan, integrating both Western and Eastern influences.
It’s not common that a main museum of a country operates a fine dining restaurant like yours. Why have QM wanted to launch this project?
In France, we work for many cultural establishments, as an example The Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac museum. I believe that offering such elevated cuisine experience in Qatar Museums makes a lot of sense. It perfectly resonates with the beauty of the architecture, the gorgeous scenery and of course, the quality of the exhibitions.
Besides being a famous chef, you are a businessman too with a tight schedule. How much time do you have to supervise your Qatari restaurants?
I am not a businessman. I’m first and foremost a cook. Therefore, I always concentrate on the cuisine we propose in our restaurants. I behave as an artistic director. I define the spirit I wish for each restaurant. I chose the executive chef and I validate the menu. It takes time but the talent of my team makes it possible to work smoothly.
Do you see any similarities between French and Qatari gastronomy? What are your personal highlights in the Qatari cuisine?
In Qatar like everywhere in the world, the cuisine is a sample of the overall culture of the country. Therefore, there are very few similarities between French and Qatari cuisines. This is exactly why I love to travel and experiment these differences. In Qatar, I particularly appreciate the flavours of spices.
What is it like working together with your head chefs? Do you discuss the dishes with your head chef to the smallest details?
Yes, down to the smallest details since the difference between good and excellent does lie in the details. In hospitality, each and every detail counts.
Portrait photo: Matteo Carassale