Alain Ducasse: “European cuisines have to learn to cook together”


San Sebastián Gastronomika commences its 23rd edition paying tribute to Alain Ducasse. The legend, who seized the opportunity to provide the details of the restaurant he has just opened in Paris with Alber Adrià, has spoken in favour of a gastronomic union between France and Spain: “In the past they wanted to confront each other, but that has become obsolete”.

The first day boasts the participation of French chefs Alexandra Mazzia or Alain Dutournier, Brazilian chef Alex Atala -explaining that he wants to hand over the baton of the restaurant to his team- as well as Spanish chefs Josean Alija or Eneko Atxa.

In this the year of the “Reunion”, when the congress welcomes France and its cuisines, the management of San Sebastián Gastronomika – Euskadi Basque Country had no doubt of naming the winner of the Tribute Award: Alain Ducasse. “Not only for having the most Michelin stars in the world, but also, and above all, for everything he has represented and represents in the international gastronomic arena”. This is what he said and how he felt on stage when Pedro Subijana and Juan Marik Arzak gave him the award and thanked him for his work in particular “and of all the French cuisine, from which we have learned so much”, remarked the chef of Akelarre. Ducasse was grateful for the words and award above all “for coming from who it comes, from my friends, my colleagues, from professionals who I admire and respect”. A standing ovation. Many stories shared together.

“I am the successor of French cuisine, a cuisine that has made me demanding but above all has given me the freedom to forge my journey, to maintain a dialogue with other culinary cultures of the world”, added the world class chef in a nod to the restaurant he has just opened with Albert Adrià in Paris, “the most recent proof of how the Spanish and French cuisines can shake hands and mutually enrich themselves”, remarked earlier Benjamín Lana, director general of Vocento Gastronomía. 

“ADMO -continued Ducasse- is the sum of the French and Spanish cuisines, a European haute cuisine restaurant”, he concluded. Bringing down barriers, the chef remarked that “in the past people wanted to confront the chefs from both sides of the Pyrenees, but that has become obsolete”. European cuisines -he generalised- have to learn to cook together”. Agreed Albert Adrià next to him, who accompanied Ducasse in the presentation: “If European politics has no borders, then nor should gastronomy”. 

This plea of togetherness continued in some of the lectures of the first day of the congress, with the participation, among others, of the former chef of the Élisée and new ambassador of French cuisine, Guillaume Gomez (“If politics divides men, good food brings them together”), and French chef residing in Barcelona Romain Fornell (Caelis*), who vindicated the use of French sauces and juices as a fundamental base also in the Spanish recipe book. 

The trans-Pyrenean connection, even European, followed with the joint lecture of Alain Dutournier (Au Trou Gascon, Paris) and Xavier Pellicer (Xavier Pellicer, Barcelona), teacher and student in the past who now reminisced on another common axiom in cuisine: the importance of conveying values and respect for the products in the recipe book, “learning to value all the parts of the food product -without waste- and move away from appearances as the only parameter for eating”.  

Alex Atala steps to one side

Although without a French tinge, other presentations have captured the attention of congress attendees on the first day of Gastronomika. Josean Alija explained how he wants to change the cuisine in Nerua* (Bilbao) to a more fun version and for sharing (for which he has cooked an open omelette larger than expected); Eneko Atxa (Azurmendi***) reviewed all the dishes in his current menu, and the Brazilian Alex Atala surprised everyone by announcing that “from now on D.O.M. no longer belongs to Alex Atala. D.O.M. belongs to my team”. “I’m not leaving the kitchen, nor am I retiring. I am a chef and will continue being a chef. I’m just stepping aside to let my team take charge of the restaurant”. Now D.O.M. belongs to my team”, he reiterated. Among his team, he points out Rubens Salfer, his right-hand man, the chef accompanying him in San Sebastián.

Awards and competitions

On the day in which Maria José López de Heredia (winemaker of Viña Tondonia) received the Gueridon de Oro award, the winner of the sixth edition of the Ruinart Sommelier Challenge was made know as well. The winner being Elia María Arranz.

Tomorrow in Gastronomika

Paco Pérez or Pedro Subijana are two of national figures who will give a lecture in Gastronomika tomorrow, in which the wayward Marc Veyrat will also intervene and with a panel session on the vestiges of French teachings in Spanish contemporary cuisine with the participation of Pierre Gagnaire, Elena Arzak, Hilario Arbelaitz and David de Jorge. Tomorrow the winners of the Russian Salad and Apple Tart competitions will be made known.






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