Stephanie Curtis - November 2013
Paris—After much suspense and speculation, the question that has titillated Paris’ gastronomic press since January—“Who would succeed chef Yannick Alléno at the stoves of Le Meurice hotel?”—is finally resolved. The response came in mid-July, like a stream of white smoke from the chimney of the palace hotel on the rue de Rivoli, or more appropriately, like a burst of fireworks just before Bastille Day, when the management of the prestigious Meurice announced that it had “invited Alain Ducasse to take up the direction of its kitchens.”
The pope of planetary gastronomy accepted Le Meurice’s invitation, quipping jokingly to a journalist of France’s Le Point magazine, “I didn’t know what I would do with my time in September, and when I saw a light on at the Meurice, I decided to go in and propose my services….”
This happy resolution to what was a thorny dilemma for Le Meurice (it’s not easy to replace a three-star chef!) also seems to be a good deal for Ducasse and his team at Plaza Athénée, which, coincidentally, closed in early October for a nine month renovation. (It is the latest in a line of Parisian palace hotels, after the Ritz and the Hôtel de Crillon, to go for a face-lift in recent months.) The fact that the Plaza Athénée and Le Meurice are both part of the same group, the Dorchester Collection, along with London’s The Dorchester hotel, whose kitchens are also directed by Ducasse, makes the current agreement eminently logical—a “no-brainer,” as some would say!
Ducasse assumed the title of head chef of Le Meurice in September, bringing along in his baggage Christophe Saintagne (currently head chef at Plaza Athénée), named executive chef for Le Meurice’s gastronomic restaurant. Yu Sugimoto, the Japanese chef who was premier sous chef under Alléno, became executive sous chef, responsible for the hotel’s other restaurants. Cédric Grolet, recently promoted after the resignation last fall of his predecessor, Camille Lesdcq, remains chef pâtissier.
Meanwhile, Alléno, who joined Le Meurice in 2003, and quickly won accolades—earning two Michelin stars in 2004, followed by the precious third star in 2007—then resigned in January 2013, is pursuing his activities with the Cheval Blanc Courchevel hotel-restaurant in the chic mountain resort town, and with his Terroir Parisien restaurant in Paris.