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Chef Alain Ducasse Going Back to Basics at His Parisian Stronghold -
Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée


Taste, service, settings and haute couture décor get back to basics at Michelin Three-Star restaurant at The Dorchester Collection address on Avenue Montaigne 

October 2010 (Paris) – Alain Ducasse is turning up the heat on contemporary cuisine with the new “Back to Basics” dining concept at Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris. The Michelin Three-Star chef, whose eponymous restaurant is the centerpiece of The Dorchester Collection address on Avenue Montaigne, is focusing on the essentials to return culinary technique to its true role of revealing flavors as nature intended them through simple preparation of the finest ingredients.

Working with Head Chef Christophe Saintagne and Head Pastry Chef Nicolas Berger, Ducasse has fashioned a four-pronged approach to the Back to Basics concept, creating artlessly simple dishes from the best products that are sought out, selected and served only in-season at the peak of freshness. In the tradition of truly great French cuisine, the new menu focuses on flavor – and flavor alone – with dishes highlighted by rare table settings, meticulous service and haute couture décor. 

“Going ‘back to basics’ means refusing to demonstrate virtuosity for virtuosity’s sake in the kitchen,” says Ducasse, who opened Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée to rave reviews in 2000. “Cooking is not about displaying technique but about paying homage to the flavor of the product. Comparing and contrasting so-called ‘noble’ and ‘common’ products is wrong: The only categories of food are the exceptional and the rest.”

HEAD CHEF CHRISTOPHE SAINTAGNE Born in Normandy, he spent his early career at the Auberge du Vieux Logis in Conteville, with Guillaume Louet. He then joined Philippe Groult at the Amphyclés restaurant in Paris, in 1998. He did his national service at the Elysée Palace in 1999 before entering Alain Ducasse’ kitchens, first at 59 Poincaré then at the Plaza Athénée. In 2002, he became Head Chef at the Parisian restaurant, “Aux Lyonnais”. Between 2005 and 2008, he assisted Jean-François Piège at the Hôtel de Crillon as Sous- Chef before returning to Alain Ducasse in 2009 as Executive Chef and contributing to the book entitled, “Nature, simple, healthy and good” published in October 2009. He took over from Christophe Moret as Alain Ducasse’ Executive Chef at the Plaza Athénée on 6th September 2010.

HEAD PASTRY CHEF NICOLAS BERGER In 1989, Nicolas won the title “Best Apprentice in France” while still training with his father, Paul Berger. He then worked with a number of prestigious names such as Le Nelson in SaintÉtienne, or Hévin, Peltier et Ladurée in Paris. Drawn to the idea of international experience, he honed his skills at the Tagliafico Pasticerria in Genoa then in New York, in particular at Payard. This is where he met Alain Ducasse, a meeting that was lifechanging since he then became Alain Ducasse’ Head Pastry Chef at Essex House in New York, in 2000. In 2003, he became Head Pastry Chef at the Plaza Athénée and, a short time later, Executive Head Pastry Chef to Alain Ducasse.


Ducasse’s new Back to Basics concept lets food speak for itself through perfect harmony and purity. The approach is best summed up as “one product, one garnish,” resulting in authentic taste devoid of superfluous ingredients or lab-inspired effects. Langoustine Tartare is prepared in a snap with only lime juice, salt and pepper to accentuate the flavors of the ocean. Fillet of beef is tied and inserted with slivers of bacon and truffle, then seared to concentrate its juices before being roasted to perfection. Key to the success is sourcing only the best ingredients from farmers, ranchers and fishmongers who are passionate about selling in-season to assure remarkable quality. For instance, game birds in early autumn and venison and wild boar just before winter. 

As part of a full à la carte menu, each season the Back to Basics concept will present three dishes based on truly great French cuisine –a fitting homage to the world’s most renowned culinary tradition. Among bounty selected by Ducasse are bergamot and limequat from Bénédicte and Michel Bachès at the foot of the Pyrenees and shallow-water scallops from Alain Rigault in Grandcamp-Maisy. Superb wines, chosen by Executive Head Sommelier Gérard Margeon, spotlight the growing contributions of female vineyard owners, winegrower and vinification managers. 

Rare Table Settings 

Setting the stage for the drama emerging from the kitchen, rare table settings let dishes speak for themselves. Silver-gilt “Monthéile” by Pulforcat cutlery; “Volute” porcelain and marble butter dishes by Pierre Tachon; and ivory tablecloths inspired by the Baroque swirls of Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée combine stylistic freedom and sensuality on the table. Settings also surprise throughout the meal: for instance, titanium chopsticks by Portuguese designer Paolo Vale for sautéed prawns in salted butter; crystal sundae dishes by Saint-Louis for low-sugar desserts; and MD Crystal for wine. 

Meticulous Service 

Every restaurant experience begins and ends with service. The Back to Basics dining concept puts meticulous service on the front burner with Restaurant Manager Denis Couriade, whose association with Alain Ducasse goes back two decades, choreographing a ballet that extends from the chef to the table. With innate fluidity in the great French tradition, attentive staff adapts service to the progress of each table, focusing only on pleasure. Surprises pop up throughout the meal, such as mini-dishes in delicate Japanese dishes designed by Shinichiro Ogata. No matter the function, staff look the part with hostesses dressed by Maud Lesur and waitstaff in chic uniforms of beautiful fabrics by Gérard Meyer for 416 Saint Honoré.

Haute Couture Décor 

What better complement to the Back to Basics dining concept than spectacular additions to the restaurant’s décor? Patrick Jouin, who designed the original restaurant, has added touches that emphasize and pay homage to Ducasse’s cuisine, including unique pieces of embroidery that portray garlic, mushrooms and artichokes. The works, which cover large screens, took more than a year to create, with beads, sequins and rock pearls added via traditional “Lunéville” technique at the Cécile Henri workshop in Paris and meticulous assembly at the Müller workshop near Nuremberg, Germany. The restaurant’s fireplace is also lit with three sculpted delftware logs by Parisian model builder Jean-Philippe Hazard that glow from projected colored lights. Taken together, Jouin’s new Back to Basics touches enhance an already sophisticated and stylish scene. 

Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée  is open for Lunch Thursdays and Fridays - 12:45 pm to 2:15 pm and for Dinner Monday to Friday - 7:45 pm to 10:15 pm. Average price à la carte is 260€ (not including beverages). 

Dorchester Collection is the successor to the Dorchester Group, originally established in 1996 to manage a portfolio of some of the world’s foremost luxury hotels in Europe and the USA.   Dorchester Collection’s Chief Executive, Christopher Cowdray, has set out the company’s goal to have between 15-20 hotels by 2015. 


Corey Finjer 
(212) 255-6541

Also See: Chef Alain Ducasse to Open miX on the beach at W Retreat & Spa Vieques Island, Puerto Rico / March 2010
Chef Alain Ducasse Moving His Signature New York City Restaurant at the Jumeirah Essex House to the Room in the St. Regis Hotel Once Occupied by Lespinasse / September 2006
The Inside Story on How InterContinental Hong Kong Managing Director Jennifer Fox Teamed Up with Michelin Chef Alain Ducasse to Create a New Benchmark for Hotel Restaurants in Asia / Steve Shellum, HOTEL Asia Pacific / October 2003

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