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From Paris

From the Earth to the Moon

Stellar Alain Ducasse Takes La Tour

By Sophie Gayot

After having prepared meals for a European astronaut aboard the International Space Station, Ducasse wants to stay high above sea-level and has obtained a nine-year concession of the restaurants at the Eiffel Tower in partnership with Sodexho, the number one collective restaurant group in the world. Ducasse has been chosen over the former beneficiary (Elior) that had presented a project with Joël Robuchon. He is to invest personally in Jules Verne, the gastronomic restaurant opened in 1889 perched on the second floor of one of the world's most visited monuments. He will oversee the bar-restaurant, Altitude 95, located on the first floor. Both restaurants will be redecorated by Patrick Jouin who is Ducasse’s official interior decorator.

Born in 1956 in the Landes region in Southwestern France, Alain Ducasse has now spread his influence and his name all over the world. From Michel Guérard where he started at the age of 16, to Gaston Lenôtre, Roger Vergé and Alain Chapel, Ducasse has received superior, intense training. During his time spent at Vergé, he discovered the savors of Provençal cuisine, which then became the basis of his own cooking. At 24, when at La Terrasse in Juan-les-Pins, we named him “one the best young chefs of La Côte d’Azur.” The big jump occurred in 1987, when La Société des Bains de Mer (S.B.M.), which owns the prestigious Hôtel de Paris in Monte Carlo, gave him the opportunity to express his talents at Le Louis XV restaurant. In 1998, the restaurant was bestowed a rating of 18/20. Three years later, Ducasse obtained his first rating of 19/20, our top one.

By 1996, he had begun expanding his forces, moving north to Paris to take over the restaurant left by “Cuisinier du Siècle” (Cuisinier of the Century), Joël Robuchon. In 1998, both of his restaurants reached the top rating of 19/20 at the same time, making him the first chef to obtain such a distinction. In 2001, his Parisian restaurant changed arrondissements, moving from the 16th to the 8th, to the Hôtel Plaza Athénée, under the guidance of the hotel general manager, François Delahaye.

Soon after he opened the eponymous New York outlet, the success continued with a third 19/20, and three consecutive nominations on our "Top 40 Restaurants in the U.S.," in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Top-notch flavors

Ducasse admits easily that he cannot be cooking in all of his restaurants at the same time, but that he has set up superbly qualified teams of chefs and managers. And we are glad he can do so since he now has 21 restaurants worldwide. He also runs a hotel organization (Châteaux & Hôtels de France, 538 members), five countryside hotels, a culinary institute, and oversees a series of cookbooks—with a total of 1,400 employees altogether.

We look forward to experiencing these elevated dining moments when the Jules Verne is ruled by the knives of Ducasse in January 2007!

Stay in a romantic mood with this Rosé Champagne.

Read GAYOT's review.