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ADNY (Alain Ducasse @ Essex House)


Bux
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The word from the Ducasse organization is that Delouvrier "has decided to pursue other projects and we regret his departure and wish him the best."

Just like the late Dick Howser "quit" as Yankees manager to pursue a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in real estate. :raz:
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From today's NY Times article:

"As Restaurant Falls to Three Stars, Ducasse Drops Chef

Alain Ducasse has removed Christian Delouvrier as executive chef at his restaurant at the Essex House, citing a recent review in The New York Times that downgraded its rating to three stars from four.

"I am at the top in Paris, in Monte Carlo and in Tokyo, and I cannot remain with three stars in New York," said Mr. Ducasse, an internationally celebrated chef who owns or is a consultant at nearly 30 restaurants throughout the world. "I knew we could not regain four stars with Christian Delouvrier at the helm...

:shock:

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It doesn't add up. When Didier Elena was chef at ADNY and the restaurant got three stars, Ducasse stood behind him for another year and eventually he got four. And Ducasse has lost and regained more Michelin stars than anybody -- he doesn't fire his chefs every time that happens. I simply can't imagine that he would choose Frank Bruni's judgment over his own -- it would be unprecedented and nonsensical. That this is the New York Times writing about the New York Times should also raise some eyebrows: if the goal was to write the story to say "we gave the restaurant three stars so they fired the chef," the quotes could be assembled that way. It's certainly in the Times's interest to do so -- to make itself seem important even though Frank Bruni is a laughing stock. Take the quotes, arrange them differently and approach it from a different angle and the story could be "Ducasse knows Frank Bruni has it in for Delouvrier so we're trying something else." Although, most likely, I think it's more like: it was an experiment, I wasn't satisfied with the way it worked out, I gave it a year, and I made a change. I mean, if it's true that business isn't off, and if it's true that Ducasse and Delouvrier are considering some sort of partnership in a Bistro . . . well, it doesn't add up.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
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It doesn't add up. When Didier Elena was chef at ADNY and the restaurant got three stars, Ducasse stood behind him for another year and eventually he got four. And Ducasse has lost and regained more Michelin stars than anybody -- he doesn't fire his chefs every time that happens. I simply can't imagine that he would choose Frank Bruni's judgment over his own

My guess, as FG goes on to suggest, is that Ducasse already had concerns about Delouvrier's stewardship at ADNY. Bruni's stars may come out of a random-number generator, but in this case they gave Ducasse the impetus to make a change he was considering anyway. But had Bruni reconfirmed the restaurant's four-star status, Delouvrier would probably still be there.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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If Ducasse fired his chef because of the NY Times reviewer's problems, then he should re-read the review. As was the case with the Babbo review, said reviewer (AKA "laughing stock") cited more FOH problems than kitchen problems. Unless Ducasse thought the chef he hired was also a plumber, then the review shouldn't have led to this end.

Newspapers that realize their significance is diminishing often take to reporting stories on their own importance in a frivolous, and most times futile attempt, to re-gain past glories.

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Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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Newspapers that realize their significance is diminishing often take to reporting stories on their own importance in a frivolous, and most times futile attempt, to re-gain past glories.

Rightly or wrongly, Ducasse himself said that regaining four stars was a priority, and was part of the decision in replacing Delouvrier. You could question why chefs care about stars, but clearly this chef does care, and so it is part of the story.

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In the article Ducasse also claims he wants a less classic approach to fine French cuisine.

As an outsider (never have eaten there, unfortunately), I thought the photos I saw of the dishes at ADNY, even if not taken under controlled circumstances, the dishes looked kind of stodgy, plates overloaded or just too small for what was going on them.

I think the dishes I've seen from D.B. or even J.G.V. looked much sleeker, modern yet classic, especially in D.B.'s case.

I realise that I'm judging from quickly taken photos but...

I appreciate Ducasses honesty, he never addressed Psaltis getting canned from MIX,NYC, did he?

Ducasse probably needs to be around a bit more too, have been hearing very uneven things about MIX,L.V.

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As was the case with the Babbo review, said reviewer (AKA "laughing stock") cited more FOH problems than kitchen problems.

Right. So he should fire his FOH people, not Delouvrier. But given today's Delouvrier smacking by Ducasse in the paper, its patently obvious that Ducasse and Delouvrier have personal issues, so the Bruni excuse just doesn't fit. It doesn't make any sense.

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Let's not forget to throw in the fact that we're hearing (or reading) Ducasse's words not only as reported by one reporter but also as replies to selected questions. There are a lot of possible truths behind any well reported statements. I generally believe about 70-80% of what I read in the times. That is to say about 80% of the story is correct, 70% of the time.

"I could not regain 4 stars with Delouvrier at the helm" could mean he can't handle the job, his style of food is just not what's seen as four star style or he's very talented, but the reviewer doesn't respect him. The first would indicate a no confidence vote. The second could very much be supported by a decision to open a bistro with Delouvrier that's designed to garner two or three stars and be packed and make a lot of money. The last would be to capitulate to the powers that seem to be. Ducasse, for the first time I've seen in print, seems to be saying he's more interested in his rating than in the quality of his restaurant. Then again, I don't believe everything I read.

There are a few differences between Elena and Delouvrier. It's one thing for a restaurant to get three stars on its first review. It's quite another to get three stars after having had a four star review. Not (yet) getting a star is perceived differently than losing one. Many people thought the match up of the two chefs was odd. Many who thought it was brilliant still noted it was unusual.

As for comments about the FOH being the problem, according to Ms. Fabricant, Ducasse is bringing another dining room manager over from Paris. It's hard to say what Ducasse might have done if he was at the helm when ADNY got three stars. When Daniel fell from four stars to three, there were no major changes in the kichen. The dining room was still being fine tuned in terms of decor at the time and changes continued, but I don't recall changes in staff there either. All Daniel did was publicly pay lip service to the idea that he was listening to what Grimes had to say. Here Ducasse is the owner, not the manager. It's not surprising he'd let the manager go. The information we don't have is what the relationship was over the past year or so. That would be interesting, but no one's ever likely to get an impartial view of that. I don't know if ADNY was playing to capacity audiences, but my guess would be that the rating might not matter if it was.

If nothing else. The change of the guard is one that's designed to play up to the reviewer's ego and garner some positive publicity. Whenever changes are made, we should all be encouraged to assume they will result in an improvement. This will continue the discussion of the power of reviewers and of ratings, paticularly of ratings by the major players -- specifically the NY Times and the Michelin Guide. They have some things in common. Their ratings are not nearly as influential to me as they used to be, though it's the Times' ratings that has really plummeted since Craig retired.

Robert Buxbaum

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Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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Ducasse is known to have close ties to the Michelin organization which, as we know, is involved in a major evaluation of NY restaurants for their upcoming guide. I would speculate that it is input from Michelin, rather than anything by Bruni, who is a lightweight, which may have caused him to act.

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As always, Bux, you have made many incisive and level-headed comments. I always look forward to your read on these things. You're the Daniel Schorr of egullet.

The second could very much be supported by a decision to open a bistro with Delouvrier that's designed to garner two or three stars and be packed and make a lot of money.

Wouldn't it be spectacular if Delouvrier did open a bistro? I love, love his simple French food, at least as it's represented in his book and on occasion on the menu at Ducasse.

I don't know if ADNY was playing to capacity audiences, but my guess would be that the rating might not matter if it was.

Apparently they haven't been filling the house very often, for whatever that's worth.

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Ducasse, for the first time I've seen in print, seems to be saying he's more interested in his rating than in the quality of his restaurant.

He doesn't seem to be saying he's more interested in his rating, only that the rating is one of those things he's interested in. This doesn't really strike me as news. FatGuy has been saying for years that high-end restaurants in New York are built with a particular star rating in mind, and there can be no doubt that ADNY was built for four stars.

The article says, "....while Mr. Delouvrier's talent was in traditional French cuisine, [Ducasse] wanted a less classic approach." I took this as a pretty emphatic signal that it's not only the FOH that Ducasse thought needed changing. I can't believe he'd do this merely to please a NYT critic who doesn't know french cooking from french fries.

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Ducasse is known to have close ties to the Michelin organization which, as we know, is involved in a major evaluation of NY restaurants for their upcoming guide.  I would speculate that it is input from Michelin, rather than anything by Bruni, who is a lightweight, which may have caused him to act.

This was exactly my thought when I read this because in the very last issue (came out 1st of May) of the Thuries Gastronomie, which is the food magazine in France for professionals and food lovers, there is a big feature on Delouvrier and Ducasse. Well it is about the cuisine of Ducasse in New York and every dish is literally signed by Delouvrier. If the departure of Delouvrier had been planned for some time, even weeks, I am sure that Ducasse would have stopped this article from being printed.

On a completely different remark, I cannot refrain from commenting on the photos of the dishes in this thread. Some of the dishes are incidentally in the magazine feature by the way. I have never eaten at Ducasse in New York, but I have extensive experience from virtually all of his French restaurants and in particular from Le Louis XV. The food on the images does not look like Ducasse’s haute cuisine at all to me. Some of the dishes look surprisingly dull in terms of ingredient composition, preparation and presentation. Many of the courses on the New York menus that have been quoted on this thread sound more like food served in any of his auberges than like food served at Le Louis XV or ADPA. I would not be surprised if that is the input he has gotten from people with eating experience (perhaps Michelin) from his other two top restaurants.

Edited by degusto (log)

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Ducasse is known to have close ties to the Michelin organization which, as we know, is involved in a major evaluation of NY restaurants for their upcoming guide.  I would speculate that it is input from Michelin, rather than anything by Bruni, who is a lightweight, which may have caused him to act.

How could Michelin have close ties to a restaurateur and then claim to be objective?

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How could Michelin have close ties to a restaurateur and then claim to be objective?

A tightrope to be sure, but it is a question of where you draw the line. The key is that the actual ratings can't be compromised. They could, arguably, give him a heads up that ADNY is not measuring up at this time to their standard for 3 stars.

It is well known that they used Daniel Boulud as a consultant for planning the NY guide to be issued later this year.

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Plenty of chefs and restaurateurs have close ties to the Michelin organization, but it's not as though Ducasse's ties to Michelin have prevented his European restaurants from losing Michelin stars and otherwise getting raked over the coals. There are far less deserving chefs, who have fewer ties to Michelin than Ducasse, who maintain three-star ratings in years when Ducasse restaurants get demoted to two.

I can't imagine, if Ducasse disagreed with the New York Times or Michelin, that he'd replace his judgment with theirs. A little bit of lip service, sure, that's just good business. But something else is going on here. Either Ducasse decided for himself that he wanted to go in a different direction at ADNY (in which case he's throwing a bone to the Times, Michelin or whomever else he can pretend to be listening to), or there's some other story that hasn't yet been told. Ducasse sits at the head of a global restaurant organization. His decisionmaking process is never as simple or simplistic as "We got a bad review; fire the chef."

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Ducasse's relation with the current Michelin boss is special since he has worked for Ducasse. This has been widely criticized in France.

But sure, there could be many reasons for Delouvrier’s departure, I think it was a decision that was taken very recently though, because the article I mentioned above is damaging to Ducasse in the light of what has happened.

When my glass is full, I empty it; when it is empty, I fill it.

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Recent is probably an understatement. I had dinner there on Tuesday night and if anybody at the restaurant knew what was going on, I'll eat my hat. I'd have to guess that not even Ducasse's publicists knew, because there was no press release until Monday (and the press release that came out didn't really square with what Ducasse and Delouvrier were telling Florence Fabricant) and everybody in the New York food media was scrambling all weekend to try to figure out what happened. That's not how it goes down if there has been a careful transition planned by the kinds of people who know how to manage such things for maximum corporate benefit. Of course, there had to be some advance work -- they had to get Tony Esnault lined up -- but it feels as though this decision got made in France and announced in America at the last possible moment.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Neither he nor Doug Psaltis lasted long as chefs de cuisine in this organization.  Both are unique and incredibly talented folks in my humble opinion. 

True both both Psaltis and Delouvrier had difficulties in other organizations as well so maybe the issues are not with Ducasse.

Psaltis left Mix for The French Laundry and did not last there long at all.

Delouvrier allegedly had "kitchen management" issues while at Lespinasse.

I appreciate Ducasses honesty, he never addressed Psaltis getting canned from MIX,NYC, did he?

Although this isn't the Doug Psaltis topic, I'll make a quick comment here since he has been speculated about three times upthread and since I'm in regular contact with the Psaltis brothers and have something of an inside line on this: I think it's highly unlikely that there are many meaningful parallels between the Mix/Psaltis situation and the ADNY/Delouvrier situation. Psaltis left Mix because Chodorow wanted to dumb down the restaurant and Ducasse didn't have the economic leverage to fight it. Ducasse offered to place Psaltis in Monaco and Paris, but that's not the direction Psaltis wanted for his career. Whatever happened with Delouvrier at ADNY couldn't be at all similar to that situation. For the full-on telling of the Mix story (as well as what happened at the French Laundry), though, we'll have to wait for Doug Psaltis's book, The Seasoning of a Chef: My Journey from Diner to Ducasse and Beyond, which comes out in September.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Plenty of chefs and restaurateurs have close ties to the Michelin organization, but it's not as though Ducasse's ties to Michelin have prevented his European restaurants from losing Michelin stars and otherwise getting raked over the coals. There are far less deserving chefs, who have fewer ties to Michelin than Ducasse, who maintain three-star ratings in years when Ducasse restaurants get demoted to two.

. . . .

This was largely my reaction to the comment that Ducasse has close ties to Michelin, although the last sentence is more than a bit subjective.

Ducasse knows food and he knows restaurants. No one is infalible, of course. Still he knew exactly what he was doing when he had Delouvrier take over the kitchen. He may have thought it was a great idea, he may have thought it was a gamble or he may have thought it was the best option at the moment which may have been akin to making an educated bet. Somewhere along the way he had to decide it wasn't working out as he thought it would or as he hoped it would. I don't know if you can blame it all on Bruni, Michelin or any one person or organization, but as Ducasse himself was not there, he had to be getting this sense from the reactions of others. He may even have been getting this sense from those in the restaurant including Dulouvrier himself. Speculation has its fascination, but it's not getting us closer to the truth.

Surely Fat Guy is not the only one who's noticed that the press release and the Florence Fabricant article, based on interviews with Ducasse who must have had some say in what went into the press relase, don't jibe. Indications are that the truth is often lost even to those who know all the facts.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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The whole thing will make sense if Ducasse invests in a place for Delouvrier that serves the kind of food that Delouvrier does so well. Incidently that sort of place is a $$$$Cash cow$$$$. Chef Delouvrier has proven himself at ADNY. A loss of a star from the NYT doesn't mean anything to his career especially given why that star was lost and the reviewer.

If Ducasse is the smart business man that I think he is, he will surely not pass up such a golden opportunity. Oh wait, maybe he staged the opportunity.

I can't even imagine an old style chef like Ducasse suddenly telling Delouvrier that he's out of a job because of this review. I don't want to get into too much speculation but from the start they were more like equals than any other chef in Ducasse's organization... Delouvrier is his own man/chef, he would thrive in his own place.

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Some interesting quotes from this NY Observer article by Tom Scocca:

Mr. Ducasse and Mr. Delouvrier declined to comment on the firing. But in the aftermath, the New York restaurant world is still digesting the upheaval in Mr. Ducasse’s kitchen—and Mr. Bruni’s role in making it happen.

"In the food world, this is the equivalent of the C.E.O. of Boeing getting let go, or Ken Lay at Enron," said Mario Batali, the chef-owner of Babbo and an ever-expanding constellation of New York restaurants. "I’m not surprised. When [bruni] bumped Ducasse down to three stars, I thought after that, it wasn’t long before he let Delouvrier go."

"It’s The New York fucking Times, man! People actually care what they say," Anthony Bourdain, the chef at Les Halles and author of Kitchen Confidential, wrote in an e-mail from New Zealand.

--

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