“Black truffle has the ability to complement all taste sensations – be it sour, salty, bitter – it even has the ability to work with sweet compositions,” explained Executive Chef Jean-Philippe Blondet of Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. In an interview, we discussed the chef’s culinary beginnings, his approach to food, the black truffle menu currently on offer and much more.
Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester offers contemporary French cuisine along with a professional bespoke and friendly service orchestrated by Restaurant Director Damien Pepin and his energetic team. Opened in November 2007, the restaurant rapidly gained its third Michelin star within 3 years after the opening, becoming in 2010 one of the only two restaurants in London to achieve this high standard.
Executive Chef Jean-Philippe Blondet joined the team at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester as Sous-Chef with Jocelyn Herland to quickly progress to Head Chef within 2 years. Jean-Philippe Blondet became Executive Chef at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester in January 2016. He interprets Alain Ducasse’s cuisine in a contemporary and refined way. In keeping with Alain Ducasse’s philosophy, the ingredients are the key elements and only the freshest and most seasonal ingredients, strictly sourced for the quality and provenance are used.
Was there a moment of inspiration or a particular experience that set you on a journey towards a culinary career?
I knew I wanted to become a chef from as far back as I can remember. There was never any question about it. Cooking was an intrinsic part of me and family life, and as a child in Nice, I was very lucky to be surrounded by great produce, and with parents who would make sure we sat down together as a family to eat on a daily basis. I developed a deep-rooted passion and understanding of food and how this brings people together, and I really couldn’t have imagined going down any other path.
How would you describe your approach or philosophy to cooking?
My approach to cooking is very straightforward: utilize the best produce at the peak of their seasonality, and respect those ingredients with the right cooking technique, seasoning, etc. With this approach, I ensure each dish has a story behind it, inspired by the seasons and, as I like to put it, “my feeling of the moment.” I like to keep things interesting for both my guests, and myself.
Tell me a little bit about the black truffle menu currently at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester.
The Black Truffle Menu at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester is available from January until March each year. This is when black truffles are at their most flavourful.
The menu is based on traditional French dishes with unexpected twists, and each dish has an element of black truffle in it; from the starters to the dessert. We utilize various textures of the same ingredient and different techniques throughout the menu such as smoking, burning and pickling to allow the menu to progress from beginning to end.
In terms of different recipes and palate combinations, what's the secret to pairing black truffle with other flavours?
As black truffle is quite round and earthy in flavour, I find that it is very easy to match with winter produce and ingredients available at this time of the year.
Black truffle has the ability to complement all taste sensations – be it sour, salty, bitter – it even has the ability to work with sweet compositions. With its noticeably intense flavour though, it does have the capability to overpower a dish if used incorrectly. The secret in using black truffle I believe, is all about the quantity on the plate and determining if a certain dish can handle more or less of it.
What are your favourite black truffle dishes?
I enjoy dishes where the individual flavour of the produce is still discernable and vibrant. With black truffle having such a bold flavour and aroma, I like keeping dishes very simple and combining only a few ingredients. Dishes such as scrambled egg on toast, or mashed potatoes are really enjoyable with black truffle.