When Prince Albert II married South African Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock at a ceremony in Monaco earlier this month, they couldn't ask just anyone to cater the event, which drew VIP guests, including Karl Lagerfeld, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Roger Moore, plus thousands of Monegasque citizens cheering on from afar.
So the Prince called on the King … of French cuisine, namely celebrity chef Alain Ducasse, to design his wedding menu. THR’s France correspondent Rebecca Leffler sat down with Ducasse at his Parisian stomping ground the hotel Plaza Athenée where he spilled the (local, organic and sustainable) beans on the royal dinner.
The Hollywood Reporter: How were you chosen out of all of the chefs in France and in Monaco to cook for the royal wedding?
Alain Ducasse: I saw the prince in Paris in February. We both happened to be in town, so we met. When he called me, I secretly hoped it was to talk about the wedding and sure enough, I sat down and he said, "Alain, I’d like to talk to you about my wedding…"
THR: How did you decide what to prepare for the occasion?
Ducasse: I thought about what we could do and what he liked. I said, "Let’s do something simple." He and Charlene wanted to share a part of themselves with their guests. so we decided to use sustainable, local fish and vegetables from their garden -- an extraction of tastes from the Mediterranean sea and land. Charlene likes healthy, sustainable cooking, and the prince is very attached to the protection of marine life and local products, so it was the perfect fit. We had some South African wine to start for Charlene, but other than the champagne and the dessert wine, everything was from the royal couple's garden and from local fishermen. The vegetables were picked that very morning and the fish was so fresh it finished cooking in the bouillon on each and every plate. The meal was 85 percent local fare.
THR: How did you prepare for the main event?
Ducasse: I ate the same menu 10 times the week before the ceremony. I kept tasting it to see how I could make it better -- what other seasoning I could add or how I could adjust the temperatures or tastes.
THR: And did it pay off? Were the royal couple and their 500 guests happy?
Ducasse: Yes. The family was very happy. The evening was intangible -- it's impossible to describe the magic of the feeling in the room. There were several ingredients involved, but it was all about the magic of the moment. It was a cocktail of words, a rare moment, simple and sophisticated. The weather was perfect -- even the wind stopped blowing before the guests sat down for dinner.
THR: And luckily, the meal you prepared was very light, so was everyone able to get up and dance afterwards?
Ducasse: Oh yes. It was incredibly light. At around 3:30 in the morning, we served a buffet and, for the next three hours, everyone ate more. It was a magnificent buffet.
THR: This isn't the first time you’ve cooked for such high-profile guests. You designed the menu for this year's Cannes Film Festival opening night ceremony and the stars dine in your restaurants all over the world. Why do you think you're in such demand?
Ducasse: Because it's simple: Today, food needs to be healthy, local, sustainable and not filled with too much fat, salt or sugar. It should be slow-cooked and seasonal. And that's my vision.
THR: So you're saying that French cuisine can be healthy?
Ducasse: The image foreigners have of French cuisine is fattening and very fancy food. But it’s not true -- French food isn’t just rich. The word "healthy" doesn’t exist in French. We have many, many words, but not that one. To me, healthy means paying close attention to feeding people.