A Spoonful of Rech
World-acclaimed chef Alain Ducasse’s first foray into food was not a runaway success. As a child growing up in France, he would watch his grandmother cooking and aged about 11 he decided to make a chocolate roulade himself.
“My grandmother let me attempt this, although I was not up to the task," Ducasse recalls. “Chocolate ended up everywhere and in the end the cake did not resemble a roulade at all!" Luckily for the culinary world Ducasse was not put off by his early endeavour. February saw the opening of his 25th restaurant, Rech by Alain Ducasse, a French seafood restaurant that replaces his Spoon concept at InterContinental Hong Kong.
“I have a long relationship with InterContinental Hong Kong so together we looked at the Hong Kong dining scene, local tastes and global travellers’ expectations and we agreed that the new restaurant should keep its French inspiration," he says. “We decided that a fish restaurant with a Parisian history would be a great addition to the market." (The storied Rech was created in Paris in 1925 by Adrien Rech and brought into the Ducasse fold 10 years ago.) Ducasse was one of the first world-famous chefs to open a restaurant in Asia with the launch of Spoon in 2003. “The opening started a trend in Hong Kong with other internationally acclaimed chefs opening outposts there," he says. “Over the past decade the city has seen a culinary boom with restaurants showcasing every type of cuisine imaginable."
Now head of a hospitality empire that spans restaurants, inns and colleges, Ducasse began training as a chef in France at 16. At the age of only 33, the 33-month-old restaurant Le Louis XV which he helmed at Hotel de Paris in Monaco became the first hotel restaurant to be awarded three Michelin stars. Then in 1998 Ducasse became the first six-starred chef with three Michelin stars for Le Louis XV and three stars for Alain Ducasse in Paris.
More Alain Ducasse restaurants are planned for Asia, including an eatery in Macau within the next two years.
Ducasse credits the great French chefs and pioneers of nouvelle cuisine Michel Guerard, Roger Verge and Alain Chapel along with celebrated pastry chef Gaston Lenotre as his biggest influences. It was through Verge, at the renowned Moulin de Mougins, that Ducasse encountered the flavours of Provencal cuisine that were to become an integral part of his own cooking.
While he is no longer in the kitchen, Ducasse still creates the recipes for his restaurants with inspiration coming from Mother Nature. “I was born and raised on a farm and when I was growing up my grandmother cooked for the entire family using vegetables from the garden and poultry and eggs from the farm," he says. “For me, nature comes before cooking. I get my inspiration from sourcing the very best ingredients and produce. I am very demanding with the quality and seasonality."
This is much in evidence on the menu at Rech by Alain Ducasse in Hong Kong. “Most of the fish is sourced in France from independent fishermen who are strongly involved in the protection of natural resources. We also source some ingredients locally such as lobster and some of the vegetables."
Specialities include four types of French oyster and pan-seared sole from Brittany in France, filleted tableside. Camembert from Normandy and matured for 30 days is the only cheese served, while desserts include Mr Rech, comprising hazelnut meringue, hazelnut ice cream and warm chocolate sauce made with Ducasse’s own chocolate.