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Alain Ducasse at Taste of London

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Thumbnail image for Alain DucasseTaste of London played host to a very special guest last night, multi-Michelin-starred super chef-restaurateur Alain Ducasse. I caught up with the iconic French chef

What do you think of the idea behind Taste of London?
I think it's an excellent idea. It's great for all the restaurants and exhibitors. There is nothing like it in France at this time. It would be great to have a Taste of Paris.

What do you think of the London dining scene?
It's fantastic and so cosmopolitan. It compares to New York. London is a very dynamic city and so is the restaurant scene and there's so much variety. It's also very competitive because there's so much on offer.

How important is it for you to have a restaurant presence in London?
It's very important. London is the biggest capital in Europe.

How much of a milestone was it for you to win the three stars at the Dorchester?
It's always difficult. It's difficult to get them and to retain them. But it's very important for my ego to get the three stars. We changed our proposal in London. Spoon was very contemporary restaurant. Now we are at the best address in London and I prefer that.

What are your plans for the future?
Last week we opened our first restaurant in Russia at the W Hotel in St Petersburg and in a few months we will open a restaurant in Doha at the Museum of Islamic Art. We have also just opened our second training school in Brazil. We opened a school in Rio about five years ago and now have about 1,000 trainees learning the art of French cuisine. Last week, we opened a school in Sao Paolo. In Brazil they don't have the know-how and the basic techniques of cooking.

You teamed with France's top chefs to launch the Collège Culinaire de France lobbying group. Where did the idea for this come from?
We all decided to gather to promote French gastronomy around the world. I don't think there was a specific need for it, it was more an idea that we had. Between me, Joël Robuchon and Pierre Gagnaire, we have restaurants all around the world. My main competitors are the French chefs - and Gordon Ramsay.

Who - other than Gordon Ramsay - do you think is a big talent in the UK?
Tom Kitchin. He is a great chef, who has developed a local cuisine with real passion.

Taste of London runs in Regent's Park until Sunday 19 June.  

Chefs du Collège Culinaire de France ©Philippe PetitFrench gastronomy is in crisis and to save it 15 of the country's most illustrious chefs have joined forces to launch a campaign to secure its culinary future.

With Tokyo recently overtaking Paris as the world's gastronomic capital with the most Michelin-starred restaurants, critical voices have got louder than ever arguing French cuisine has for too long rested on its laurels.

Although declared part of the world's heritage by the United Nations, French cuisine stands accused of not moving with the times and failing to adapt to a changing culinary world order in which a new generation of chefs continually pushes the boundaries.

The final straw came last week, when for the first time ever, France failed to make it onto the podium at the prestigious Bocuse d'Or competition in Lyon, which was dominated by Scandinavian countries.

With all that in mind, the crème de la crème of French Michelin-starred chefs gathered yesterday at the restaurant 58 Tour Eiffel in Paris to unveil the country's first chef lobbying group: the Collège Culinaire de France.

With honorary members Paul Bocuse, Michel Guérard and Pierre Troisgros, and founding members including Joël Robuchon, Guy Savoy, Alain Ducasse, Anne-Sophie Pic, Marc Haeberlin and Yannick Alléno, it's obvious they mean business.

Their objectives are straightforward: Create an organisation that defends the interests of French gastronomy. Through advocating the industry as an "economic power", and opening the doors of the country's top restaurants to train up a new generation of French master chefs, it aims to secure France's future as the world-leader of gastronomy.

The group also plans to establish a museum of gastronomy in Paris and will publish an annual list of thousands of the finest French products and producers to help boost exports and awareness worldwide.

Daniel Boulud gains three stars in New York

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Daniel Bouloud: London's next celebrity chef?French chef Daniel Boulud's flagship restaurant in New York has been awarded the top accolade of three stars in the city's 2010 Michelin guide.

His restaurant Daniel on Manhattan's Upper East Side has joined Jean Georges, Le Bernardin, Masa and Per Se in the guide's list of top eateries bringing New York's three-star restaurants to five.

With speculation mounting that Boulud is planning a restaurant in London next year, the accolade reinforces his status as one of the world's most renowned chefs.

Meanwhile the fortunes were reversed for fellow French chef Alain Ducasse's Adour restaurant at Manhattan's St Regis hotel, which has lost a star and dropped from two- to one-Michelin-star status.

The development is particularly bitter as the restaurant, which opened in spring last year, replaced Ducasse's previous New York eaterie at Essex House which held the top accolade of three Michelin stars until its closure in 2006.

Gordon Ramsay's eponymous restaurant at the London hotel in Manhattan's Midtown retained its two stars, despite recently reported problems of food hygiene

The 2010 Michelin guide to New York awarded a record 20 new stars including one new three-star; two new two-star; and 17 new one-star restaurants. New York now has a total of 78 Michelin-starred restaurants, compared with 69 in Paris and 49 in London.

The guide identified 31 new restaurants as Bib Gourmands (offering two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for less than $40), bringing the total to 85. It also selected 109 restaurants offering a meal for less than $25.

Alain Ducasse opens Paris cookery school

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Alain DucasseFrench über-chef Alain Ducasse yesterday opened a new cookery school in Paris aimed at mere mortals wanting to improve their culinary skills.

The Ecole de Cuisine Alain Ducasse, which is located in the French capital's posh 16th arrondissement, is designed to let amateur cooks recreate his multi-Michelin-starred cuisine at home. Well, maybe not quite.

According to Emanuelle Perrier, director of PR, one of the most important aspects of the school is that "you can honestly be completely useless in the kitchen".

The Ecole caters for all different types of wannabe chefs and offers two different levels: experienced and inexperienced. There are ten different courses on offer with topics ranging from "traditional" to "escapist" and "gourmet cuisine", with classes lasting half a day or a full day depending on the subject.

And that's not where it ends: the Ecole de Cuisine Alain Ducasse also offers wine-appreciation and pastry-making courses and there are even English-speaking chefs for the non-French-speaking students.

Hoorah!

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