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Published on: June 24, 2022, 2:46 p.m.
Top culinary school, now in India
  • École Ducasse campus

By Suman Tarafdar

His feats are outstandingly singular. The world has long sung elaborate encomiums about Alain Ducasse, his incomparable cuisine, his innovations in the kitchen, his remarkable feat of having a maximum of 21 Michelin stars in 2012 (this varies by yearly updates, but he was the first chef to have three 3-star restaurants concurrently). His attention to detail is legendary – and without the theatrics often associated with top-flight chefs. And, he insists on using the freshest ingredients for his meals.

Ducasse created meals that were delivered to the International Space Station. His 20 plus restaurants span continents – from Las Vegas to Tokyo. He has been a guest of honour in MasterChef across countries. In 2013, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement on The World's 50 Best Restaurants List. Yes, his restaurants make up a considerable share of that list annually. In his career spanning five decades, he has written books, started culinary schools, put Provençal cuisine on the global gastronomic map – all with a philosophy grounded in humanist cuisine. 

In 1984, he was the only survivor of a plane crash in the Alps, and was confined to his bed for about a year. The experience made him find purpose in every aspect of his life, he says. Yes, it has been a remarkable life indeed for 1956-born Ducasse.

This master chef was in India for the inauguration of École Ducasse, a network of schools founded in 1999 by Ducasse, and dedicated to the transmission of French expertise and excellence in culinary and pastry arts. The campus is located at the Indian School of Hospitality (ISH), Gurugram which was founded by hospitality veteran, Dilip Puri.

The mission of this school would be to give Indian culinary traditions the worldwide recognition it deserves, he says. “India must become one of the influential voices on the global culinary scene. We want to offer to Indian culinary aspirants new horizons abroad as well as in India. When you delve into history, you discover how long the culinary links between our countries have been, how much India has contributed to European cuisine. This is somewhat of a return to the roots for me. As a chef, I feel I am travelling back via the spice route to India. This is why the opening of the school is such a significant moment for me.”

The culinary programmes at École Ducasse in India include undergraduate degree, diploma and certificate courses, which combine culinary training, along with technical, managerial and entrepreneurial skills.  The programmes also offer the opportunity to study at École Ducasse campuses in France and pursue internships abroad. “They students are welcome to intern at my restaurants,” says Ducasse, which would be a significant booster to any wannabe chef’s resume.

Ducasse stresses that the focus will be on learning the French technique rather than French or Indian cuisine. “The idea is to deliver a toolbox to the students, who will then deliver their own cuisine, in India or anywhere else in the world. Also, we are training the future chef-managers, who will be in charge of paying tribute to the earth and be conscious of the way they use the resources of the planet. This also is a strong part of our training courses.”

Proof that Ducasse has been great at outreach comes from another format. India will also soon have a Ducasse Studio, designed for amateurs, enthusiasts and professionals, who can benefit from courses ranging from a day to a three-month certificate programme. 

Given the spread of Ducasse’s restaurants all over the world, including many outlets in Asia, many have been surprised at the lack of a Ducasse restaurant in India. “We have been in discussions to open a restaurant in India earlier,” he reveals, adding it didn’t work out. “Now is the time for us to be in India. It’s the beginning of a long story.”

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