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Grand Livre de CuisineI don’t know if the Governor of California is into things gastronomic, but Arnie is the only person I can think of who could hold, in one hand, Alain Ducasse’s Grand Livre de Cuisine (now available in English) while mixing the ingredients for, say, Bilbao Salt Cod Brandade or Lobster a l’Americaine! This incredible tome weighs in at 5.4 kilos, a mere trifle to The Terminator!


Last week Monsieur Ducasse invited a few close personals to dinner to check out the new doorstep/cookbook and celebrate the opening of La Cour Jardin, that achingly romantic lady-in- red summer terrace-restaurant at the Plaza Athenée. As it transpired, it was too cold to eat al-fresco, so, having sipped a Cocktail Rouge Plaza (sirop de geranium + champagne) we retired to the elegant Salon Marie Antoinette.  


On the menu a perfect foie gras with sangria condiment, followed by curried lobster, taboulé, mango and coriander. The main was tender, juicy lamb chops, pastilla of vegetables and herb jus. The pudd, “Chilled Mystere, Plaza Style was, I mused, très Agatha Christie, although the butler could never have done this!” Wines were carefully selected, right down to the 2003 sweet Muscat de Frontignan Cuvee Belle Etoile, Domaine Peyronnet. Obviously Monsieur Ducasse had not cooked this triumph with his bare hands, Cédric Bechade is on  mains, and award winning Christophe Michalak (La Bocuse d’Or) Pastry chef of the Year, creates the stunning pudds. Book now to eat the above dinner, “the menu changes according to the market of course”, adds Bechade.


Ducasse“Monsieur Ducasse you are philosopher of the cuisine, are there no limits for you”, asked an astonished guest having just learned not only about the book, but also that it is now confirmed that Benoit the legendary Paris bistro is now part of dynasty Ducasse. “I just want to make people happy”, Ducasse says with his customary modesty.  Meanwhile back at the book Ducasse explains that the restaurant universe is changing fast. “What was missing was a basic cookbook synthesizing the current advances being made in our profession. This book emerged from strong interaction with my closest collaborators (Jean-Francois Piege, Didier See the REAL Europe with Rail Europe Elena, Franck Cerutti, Patrick Ogheard and Benoit Witz) and is dedicated to all those who value the source and integrity of fine cuisine”. It is also dedicated to Gwenaelle “who shares my passion for this profession and to Alain Chapel who taught me the pleasure of great cuisine.  No publisher would touch it, “too big” (nobody asked Arnie!) “So I am now a publisher”, he smiles that slow smile.


So why should I buy it Monsieur Ducasse?


“Since fine cooking works in symphony with what nature provides and the techniques employed, the book embraces ten main cooking techniques from traditional braising and open fire, to the most current trends, a la plancha and low temperature”, he explains.
“The home cook can look up a dish by way of the product, the sauce, the base or via the recipe itself. Lobster, for example, appears in forty different recipes with information about other possible ways to cook the product”. The recipes appear on double pages and are illustrated (by Didier Loire) with a photo of the finished dish on a white plate. Mmmm…


asparagusRecipe: Wild Asparagus Risotto:
Ingredients for 4:
200g Arborio Rice, 60g white onions, ½ cup dry white wine, 1 quart light chicken stock, 60g grated Reggiano Parmesan,
3 half tablespoons olive oil pressed from very ripe olives, 90g butter, fleur de sel, 3 half tablespoons whipped cream, 50g parmesan, one third cup beef juice. 4 bunches wild asparagus.
To make the risotto:
Bring the light chicken stock to the boil.
Peel the white onions, finely mince and sweat in a saucepan with 50g of butter. It is essential to stir the risotto with a wooden spoon or spatula all the time it is cooking.
Add rice, stir for 3 minutes until transparent. Add white wine and let completely evaporate.
Cover with the boiling light chicken stock, simmer gently. When the rice has absorbed all the liquid, cover once more with light stock. Repeat this same procedure 5 or 6 times. After 18 minutes, the rice should be cooked. Add butter, olive oil and grated parmesan, stirring constantly. For the wild asparagus, cut off the ends and braise in olive oil.
Spoon the risotto onto white dishes, top with wild asparagus, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with parmesan shavings.


So there you are then. Now Arnie we could try this at home with the awesome new cook book, but you know what? I’d rather be at The Plaza, with you!




La Cour Jardin,
Hotel Plaza Athenée,
25 avenue Montaigne, 8th (Metro: Alma-Marceau)
T: 01 53 67 66 02
Open daily through mid-September About 80€ + wine


Alain Ducasse’s Culinary Encyclopaedia,
Les Editions d’Alain Ducasse – 240€
Available at The Plaza Athenee.


L’Ecole de Cuisine d’Alain Ducasse,
55 Boulevard Malesherbes, 8th (Metro: Madeleine)
T: 01 44 90 91 00


20 rue St-Martin, 4th (Metro: Châtelet)
T: 01 42 72 87 82



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Born in Hampton, Middlesex, UK, Margaret Kemp is a lifestyle journalist, based between London, Paris and the world. Intensive cookery courses at The Cordon Bleu, London, a wedding gift from a very astute ex-husband, gave her the base that would take her travelling (leaving the astute one behind) in search of rare food and wine experiences, such as the vineyards of Thailand, 'gator hunting in South Florida, learning to make eye-watering spicy food in Kerala;pasta making in a tiny Tuscany trattoria. She has contributed to The Guardian, The Financial Times Weekend and FT. How To Spend It.com, The Spectator, Condé Nast Traveller, Food & Travel, and Luxos Magazine. She also advises as consultant to luxury hotels and restaurants. Over the years, Kemp has amassed a faithful following on BonjourParis. If she were a dish she'd be Alain Passard's Millefeuille “Caprice d'Enfant”, as a painting: Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’herbe !