Any self-respecting food enthusiast will know of Alain Ducasse. Somewhat of a legend in the global food scene — not to mention the first chef to own 3 Michelin-starred restaurants in three different cities — Ducasse is reputed not only for his prowess in the kitchens, but as a true purveyor of what it means to live and eat well. Which is why it came as little surprise that — having set up venues in Japan, China, and Singapore — Bangkok-based gastronomes rejoiced when he finally expanded his reach to our shores.
With absolutely breathtaking riverside views from ICONSIAM’s ICONLUXE, Blue by Alain Ducasse marks the chef’s first restaurant in Thailand, and is created exclusively for the city. Despite being the brainchild of one of the most famous chefs in the world, Ducasse insists that “Blue is not a stiff restaurant”. Instead, guests can expect a menu of haute contemporary French cuisine, served in an environment that, “while very special, is also very welcoming.” Prior to the official opening of his Thai venue, we sat down with Alain Ducasse to discuss his views on the future of food, his belief in “seeing global, acting local”, and his views on becoming a part of Thailand’s vibrant food scene. Here’s what he shared.
Blue is extraordinary, but not uptight.
When asked what Blue is, Ducasse replies that it’s “the right balance between elegance, chic, and accessibility.” He directs our attention to the stunning view outside, where long-tail boats glide idyllically down the Chao Phraya River. “I like beautifully addresses,” he tells us simply, “and this place, ICONSIAM, is a beautifully designed building that brings together the authenticity, craftsmanship, modernity, and all the avant garde of this particular location.” It’s through the little details combined, that his appreciation of the venue shines.
“What we wanted to achieve, and something that is really part of our DNA in the way we design different places and restaurants, is to find harmony between what’s on the plate, in our menu, and what’s outside. So from the food through to the design, uniforms, and even our choice of silverware — everything follows our storytelling to create the identity of the restaurant, and this is what makes Blue by Alain Ducasse what it is.”
It’s also made exclusively for Bangkok.
To call Blue different is almost an understatement, and Ducasse reminds us that the restaurant concept is totally unlike any other. “All the dishes that you can see here have been specifically designed for Blue, and Blue is a unique brand — Blue is made for Bangkok.” A big part of this customisation involves bringing out the best in what Thailand has to offer. “We started by researching a lot on what produce is available, and what Thai people love to eat. The challenge with Blue was to create something that combined Thai ingredients with French cuisine and French history, but in a modern way fit for 2020.”
This focus on locally-sourced produce underlies everything about the restaurant, and while some ingredients are sourced from farmers just an hour away, suppliers range from Khao Yai — where Blue gets their milk, eggs, and chicken — to hill tribes in Chiang Mai. The blue crab, tomato water gelée and gold caviar, for instance, is made using crabs sourced from small local fishermen, and Houcquet considers them to be the best crabs in the area. In fact, the only time the team looks to other countries for produce is when a seasonal ingredient is needed, or when a certain standard of quality cannot be found here first.
Never one to hold back with his various establishments, Blue is, of course, a purveyor of true quality. The restaurant features a menu especially curated for the venue, and is helmed by executive chef Wilfrid Hocquet, who has spent most of his 20-year career in Michelin-starred restaurants. “I think Thai people are expecting to have a different experience at Blue,” Hocquet tells us, “which is why we try to propose something which is both different from others, but also accessible, by using the best products from Thailand and overseas.”
Alain Ducasse is here to join the movement, not change it.
When we express interest at Ducasse’s steadfast approach to farm to table concepts, he is quick to tell us that he was not the pioneer of such ideals, but simply another supporter of the movement. “This isn’t something new,” he insists, “it’s a trend. The restaurants here, they have not waited for us to start being interested in local sourcing. They have already done that. We aren’t the first, but a continuation of what has already been happening. It’s an interest that is growing more and more — this idea of global vision, and local acting.”
Both Ducasse and Hocquet have high hopes for Thailand’s gastronomy scene, expressing excitement for what lies ahead. “You see a lot more local Thai chefs travelling at a young age, and working in famous kitchens all around the world,” Hocquet says, “these chefs will come back to Bangkok and bring movement to Thai cuisine, which you can already see in a lot of new restaurants. Young Thai chefs will be bringing with them all the savoir faire, and do something very interesting.”
As for Blue’s role in all of these changes? “We’re here to become a really active part of this movement,” Ducasse explains, “We want to be a part of this trend, and the ever-growing energy of Bangkok’s food scene. We remain very humble — it’s not because we are here that we are changing everything, we just want to do a part and support what is already here.”
The future of food is our planet.
“As a chef, we can no longer be disconnected from the planet,” is Ducasse’s response, when we ask where he thinks the industry is headed. “We need to really take into account our impact on the environment, wherever we are. We need to start thinking about using less animal protein, about using vegetables and grains as an alternative, and about the quality of our food. It is important to be as sustainable as we can, and to consider what is good for our health. Food that is good for thought, is good to eat.”
To be a ‘good chef’ is very arbitrary — just work hard and do your best.
“When you’re a chef, you don’t decide if you’re great,” Hocquet tells us with a laugh, “the public decides that for you.”
Ducasse chuckles and imparts a bit of advice — “work more, faster, and better. It’s only three words, very easy to say, but takes time to achieve.”
As for what he considers to be a success, he simply tells us his hopes for Blue. “I want customers to visit our restaurant, and say “I spent an incredible, wonderful time, and I’ll be back.”
Blue by Alain Ducasse is open daily from 11am-10pm. To reserve your seats or find out more, call 0 2005 9412, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.