Alain Ducasse bids farewell to Plaza Athénée
On June 30th, after 21 years of collaboration, the era of Alain Ducasse will end at the Plaza Athénée hotel in Paris. An emblem of ultra-luxury hospitality, the Dorchester Collection building has so far embodied the idea of an exclusive welcome also thanks to the prestige of the French chef who brought, and still holds, three Michelin stars to the restaurant on Avenue Montaigne. Now Ducasse himself confirms the rumors that have been circulating for weeks: in conjunction with the natural expiration of the lease, the long-lived and fortunate history of one of the most admired tables in the world comes to an end. The brave adventure started in 2014 embracing the cause of natural cooking, by the chef’s far-sighted choice. The official press release, highlighting the consensual decision of the parties involved, specifies that Ducasse’s collaboration with the Dorchester group will continue in the other venues in Paris and London, where Ducasse and his brigade have other 5 stars, two in the French capital for Le Meurice, and three in London, at the Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester restaurant. So what has changed at the Plaza Athénée? In a nice interview with Corriere della Sera, a few days ago, the chef invited his colleagues to “change in order to survive.”
The informal soul of Alain Ducasse
And he himself, who for years has been committed to diversifying a restaurant empire that counts over thirty businesses in eleven countries, has in recent months been concerned with giving more impetus to a whole series of collateral projects to haute cuisine, confirming his entrepreneurial versatility. The Parisian ice cream parlour of the Manufacture project (already launched for coffee and chocolate) will soon see the light, while at the end of summer, again in Paris, Sapid will make its debut, an informal dining format without table service at affordable prices: the natural evolution of the work started during the pandemic with food delivery, together with Romain Meder, executive chef at the Plaza Athénée (now his future, like that of pastry chef Jessica Prealpato, will have to be decided: it seems that Dorchester would be happy to see them stay).
How (and if) big hotel dining will change
But this farewell can only give rise to a reflection on the state of the art of big hotel dining, subject to the rules of high-end international tourism that will need time to restart, although it will certainly return. The need to regroup immediately, however, may have weighed on Dorchester’s decision, which now pays tribute to the long association with Ducasse through the words of the hotel’s General Manager Francois Delahaye, appearing to be in a hurry to turn the page. In France, restaurants will reopen starting from June 9th, and in the next few days the group could dissolve the reserve on Ducasse’s successor, which many identify in Jean Imbert, owner of the Mamie brand in Paris, but known above all for his television background , as winner of the Top Chef programme in 2012. A very different profile from that of the chef from Sarrazin, which would confirm the intention to start a new, more informal path, even within one of the most coveted buildings in the French capital. The ownership does not confirm for now, but newspaper Le Figaro reveals the existence of a negotiation.
Among the rumors of the last few hours, however, we must also point out the indiscretion spread by the French magazine Atabula, among the first to speak, a few weeks ago, of Ducasse’s farewell from the Plaza Athénée. In fact, in Paris there are several famous hotel restaurants that have witnessed the abandonment of their chef owners in recent months (and this also happens in Italy, where, on the one hand, ambitious projects are being prepared for hospitality that also involves great chefs, on the other hand there are also defections of prominent figures in hotel dining, such as Andrea Aprea and Vito Mollica). Among them is Nicolas Sale, who in March left the two-star kitchen of La Table de l’Espadon at the Ritz Paris hotel, in Place Vendome. The property has taken time to recruit a new chef (while the pastry chef Francois Perret has just arrived, opening a shop with an independent entrance in the hotel on June 7th). Now Atabula puts forward the hypothesis of an ongoing negotiation with Ducasse. If so, the chef would land in the heart of the 1st arrondissement, only a couple of kilometres from Plaza Athénée, and a few hundred meters from Rue de Rivoli, where Le Meurice is based.