Modern gastronomic titans Alain Ducasse and Wolfgang Puck came together in the same kitchen for a remarkable moment on June 25.
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A Park Lane Partnership

Andy Lynes / July 1st, 2013

Seeing modern gastronomic titans Alain Ducasse and Wolfgang Puck together in the same kitchen is a remarkable moment—the culinary equivalent of De Niro and Pacino appearing on screen for the first time together in the 1995 movie Heat. The chefs collaborated on a five course menu served one night only (Tuesday, June 25) to a sold-out dining room of 65 guests (who paid £350/$530 a head for the privilege) in Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester restaurant in London.

“I have huge respect for Wolfgang. He's a real star in North America. Our styles are very different, but we share the same passion,” said Ducasse, over canapés and Champagne during the meet-and-greet session with the guests before the meal.

“It's really fun for everyone to give people a different experience. To have something mixed up a little bit is a good thing,” noted Puck. “We did a similar event last year at the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, and people were very happy, so we said, 'OK, lets do it again.'”

Given their long careers and high profiles, it's surprising that the two haven't crossed paths professionally in Europe before now (by coincidence, Puck worked as an entremetier at the Hôtel de Paris in Monaco, but years before Ducasse took over the kitchens), but with London restaurants meters apart on Park Lane (Puck's CUT restaurant is in the Dorchester Collection's 45 Park Lane hotel, directly opposite The Dorchester itself), there is a certain inevitability about the night's event, which Puck said has been about four months in the planning.

The close proximity of the two restaurants allowed CUT head chef David McIntyre to complete the mis en place for four canapés and two meat dishes in his own kitchen before bringing a small team of three to Ducasse's executive chef Jocelyn Herland's kitchen for service. “Jocelyn and I work together all the time. We had a couple of trial sessions to figure out how we were going to cook everything,” said McIntyre.

“We'll get each course out in less than 11 minutes,” said Herland, who, with just over half an hour before guests started to arrive, looked completely unruffled, with his kitchen in perfect order and his team of 16 working silently behind him.

Highly ordered and intense kitchen activity is abuzz while the team plates up Ducasse's halibut course. Plates are laid out on a central work station, which the chefs move around, each with an element to add to the plate; first, a small heap of baby spinach sautéed in garlic; next comes sautéed crayfish and turned baby mushrooms, already portioned and tipped out from mini foil pudding basins; then the poached fillet of halibut; and finally sauce Nantua made from crayfish deglazed with Cognac and reduced with tomatoes, garlic, and shallots, and finished with crayfish butter.

It would be invidious to choose a best dish of the night (both Ducasse and Puck refuse to admit to even a friendly rivalry about the menu), but Puck's Wagyu beef served with his own 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon poured from magnums was a supremely successful food and wine pairing. The two styles—Ducasse elegant and classical, Puck robust and eclectic—blended surprisingly well, with the meal building nicely to a historically good chocolate fondant cake with biscuit and ganache made from Ducasse's own brand of 75 percent chocolate (made from a blend of cocoa beans from Ecuador, Madagascar, and São Tomé).

It was 13 years before De Niro and Pacino collaborated again; let's just hope their gastronomic equivalents don't leave it that long.

Read more about CUT and its wine program in the June issue's Expatriate Act, also written by Andy Lynes.

The Menu

Canapés

By Wolfgang Puck:
• Mini Wagyu Beef Sliders
• Spicy Tuna Tartare Cones, Sesame-Miso Tuile Roasted Potatoes with Osetra
• Toasted Brioche with Quail Egg & Black Truffle Butter

By Alain Ducasse:
• Gougères
Barbagiuans (spinach and ricotta stuffed pastry dumplings)
• Mini tarts of raw and cooked vegetables with Taggiasca olives & tomato syrup

Served with Laurent-Perrier Brut Champagne Grand Siécle NV

Plated Dishes

Ducasse: Steamed langoustines, green pasta spinach ravioli, spicy consommé
Domaine Loew Riesling Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergbieten 2012 (served in a Jeroboam)

Ducasse: Halibut Florentine, crayfish & baby spinach
Maroslavac-Léger Puligny-Montrachet Les Corvées des Vignes 2011 (served in a Jeroboam)

Puck: Gressingham Duck Breast, Porcini Mushrooms, Roasted Honey Crisp Apples, 10 Spice-Huckleberry Sauce
Alban Vineyards Syrah Edna Valley Reva 2008 

Puck: Australian Wagyu, Sirloin & Short Ribs, Rutabaga Puree, Chanterelles, Red Wine-Yuzu Kosho Emulsion
Wolfgang Puck Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Georges III Vineyard Napa Valley California 2009 (served in a magnum)

Ducasse: Soft chocolate and nib cake, frosted cocoa bean
Chateau Guiraud Sauternes 1er Grand Cru Classé 1998 (served in an Impériale)