By Manik Gupta
New Delhi, Jul 3 (PTI) Wonderful smell, colourful and very seductive... Legendary multi-Michelin-starred French chef Alain Ducasse runs out of adjectives while describing the Indian cuisine.
The famed chef and restaurateur was in India recently to inaugurate his first École Ducasse, a network of hospitality schools founded in 1999 by him, in association with the Indian School of Hospitality (ISH), Gurugram.
"India is a country where food is a culture, it is one of the major interests here. I am fascinated to be here and to know how much of it is true. Indian cuisine brings happiness. It is colourful, has a wonderful smell, and is very seductive," Ducasse told PTI on his maiden visit to the country.
"I humbly hope that École Ducasse will contribute to the greatness and the influence that India is going to have in the food world globally," he added.
Ducasse, boasting of 21 Michelin stars throughout his career, holds the rare distinction of being the first chef to own three Michelin-starred restaurants simultaneously.
The French-born culinary heavyweight, who runs several successful restaurants across the world, said he is inspired by India's "treatment of vegetables", and had brought it to use in one of his much-acclaimed restaurant 'Spoon' in Paris.
"We have been getting inspiration from India on how to treat vegetables for one of our restaurants, 'Spoon' in Paris. In fact, the chefs from 'Spoon' have also written a book on recipes inspired by India and the Indian subcontinent," said Ducasse.
Big on sustainability and plant-based diet since 1987 -- well before the phrase 'farm-to-folk' caught the fancy of the world -- the 65-year-old believes it is high time "environment consciousness" is taken into account by chefs as well as customers visiting restaurants or supermarkets.
According to Ducasse, a well-known advocate of "less animal protein, more cereals and vegetables", India as a country has a "world of opportunities" in terms of promoting a plant-based diet given the interest it already has for vegetables.
'Sapid', a 95 per cent plant-based restaurant that Ducasse opened in Paris last year, shows how he likes to lead by example.
"We have recently started a restaurant ('Sapid'). It is accessible to everyone, affordable, with 95 per cent of vegetable and cereals and only 5 per cent of animal protein, and it's working," informed Ducasse, a forerunner in terms of vegetarian and vegan cuisine.
The pioneer of French cuisine recently also opened his first vegan burger concept 'Burgal', a kiosk in Paris, which when ordered as a meal, comes with a side dish of vegetables and chickpea chips -- doing away with the traditional French fries.
But Ducasse, though optimistic about better days ahead, admitted there are "many more people" queuing up at multinational fast-food chains than at his vegan food stand.
"... I have to be honest that there are many more people today at McDonald's than at 'Burgal', even though our burger is much better and more tasty. Maybe the best is yet to come," said the chef.
With a work experience spanning five decades, in which he rubbed shoulders with the who's who of the food and beverage industry and eventually trained a new generation of chefs, his advice for aspiring chefs and restaurateurs: "get inspired but don't copy".
"Get inspired by what the world is giving you, but do not copy, do not Xerox. Invent your own story... Think about what's around the plate, and not just what is on the plate. The food is only 55-60 per cent of the whole experience... The success of a restaurant is a combination of many subtle details," he explained.
Culinary programmes taught at École Ducasse in India include undergraduate degree, diploma and certificate courses. PTI MG RDS