The Dish: Jean-Philippe Blondet, Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester

Right hand man to renowned chef Alain Ducasse, Jean-Philippe Blondet has been executive chef at the three-Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester in London since 2013, but has worked with chef for more than 13 years. Born in Nice, in the South of France, his first role with Alain Ducasse was at Spoon at Sanderson in London from 2004 to 2006, where he progressed to become a chef de partie. He later joined the three-Michelin-starred Le Louis XV-Alain Ducasse at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco – Alain Ducasse’s iconic restaurant by the Riviera. Jean-Philippe also held the position of sous chef at Spoon in Hong Kong, before returning to London and joining Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester as sous chef in September 2013, progressing to become its head chef in January 2016 after just two years.

Can you remember/describe your first shift in a kitchen?

Originally, I wanted to work in pastry, but at around the age of 14 or 15, I started a hospitality course and this changed my direction. I decided instead to focus on cooking as I felt I was able to express myself more freely in cuisine than with pastry. Nevertheless, my penchant for sweet things, like chocolate, hasn’t changed since then.

What is your earliest wine memory?
My earliest wine memory has to be when visiting my maternal great-uncle in Bordeaux; I was about six years old. His family ran a small vineyard, and there, I was exceptionally allowed a cheeky taste of wine under his watchful eye.

What has been your most memorable meal?
My most memorable dish to date, has to be the “Provence garden vegetables cooked with black truffle” at Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse à l’Hôtel de Paris in Monte-Carlo. It is a signature dish of the restaurant and I remember it vividly as it was the first vegetarian dish which blew me away. The sauce, in particular, really brought all the ingredients together. It was truly unforgettable, and amazing to see what can be created from something as unassuming as a vegetable.

How important is wine to a meal, from a chef’s point of view?
Wine and cuisine go hand-in-hand, and each make up 50% of a meal in my eyes. When I create a menu, I work closely with the wider team to ensure each dish works symbiotically with the front-of-house and sommelier. We need to find the right balance, and we regularly hold meetings to try dishes with a selection of wines to find the perfect pairings.

What would be your ultimate food and wine pairing?

One of the highlights on our Black Truffle Menu currently, and a dish I reserve for special occasions, is the seared foie gras, Jerusalem artichoke and black truffle. This, paired with a 1985 D’Oliveiras Verdelho Madeira, really makes the ultimate pairing for me.

Who is your inspiration in the winemaking and gastronomic world and why?

Any winemaker that showcases varietal duplicity highlighting terroir, gives me a great platform to work from. They express their true identity whether that be in modern or classic style.

Biggest kitchen disaster?

I am a firm believer in learning from one’s mistakes, but never dwelling on them. Thankfully, nothing was ever so much of a disaster that I couldn’t handle it myself. I could certainly tell you a few stories! I do still enjoy looking back and having a good laugh.

If you could give your younger self advice starting out as a chef, what would it be?

To take things step-by-step and have patience. In the beginning we all want things right away, but some people will need more time than others to fully master a position before moving up the ladder. It is very important to have the right foundations to be able to succeed. It’s like a building, if you do not build on solid foundations, the building will collapse. Take the time, step by step, and don’t be afraid to put in hard work and commitment. If you are not fully committed, it will quickly become too difficult. Passion is key as it will make your job easier. You need to always be positive too – when you have a problem, there is always a solution.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?

I believe I would be a great real estate agent. I enjoy bargaining and am a pretty good negotiator.

Besides cooking, which talent would you most like to have?

I would like to be really good at drawing. I truly admire individuals with that particular talent.

What would be your best piece of culinary advice for an aspiring home cook?

Eat. Taste. Try different food; food that takes you out of your comfort zone. Broaden your field of vision. Take chances on cooking things you have never tried to cook before. It may be a success or a horrible failure, but that’s the fun in it. Take those risks and let your imagination take flight.

If you could only eat at one restaurant for the rest of your life, where would you choose?

There is a very small restaurant in my hometown of Nice that I visit every time I go back. It is a must for me as they do the best steak tartare with chips I’ve ever had in my life. That and the chocolate cake are my staples. Over the years, I’ve developed a really nice relationship with the team and they know my order by heart.

What else would you like to achieve in life?

After 13 years of working hard and finally achieving my dream of three Michelin stars, I’m very happy. I am looking forward to the year ahead with my team, as we have lots of creative ideas and projects we will be working on. I plan to continue my journey at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, but as the next step, I dream of opening and running my own three Michelin starred restaurant. It would be a great achievement and something which I will continue to work towards.

And finally, what is your life motto?

I would say, living by my “feeling of the moment.” My emotions stimulate my creative process, and I wouldn’t be who I am today without trusting my intuition.

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