Celebrated chef Alain Ducasse reflects on more than a decade of food in the British capital as he opens his first chocolate boutique in the city.

SINGAPORE (Dec 10): Alain Ducasse is one of the world’s most celebrated chefs. He holds a total of 18 Michelin stars and is the highest-profile international ambassador for contemporary French cuisine, with 30 restaurants, from Las Vegas and New York to Macau and Tokyo.

His latest passion is for chocolate, with a workshop in Paris that sources cocoa beans from a dozen locations. In October, he opened a store in London, at Coal Drops Yard, and talked about his love for the city and his disappointment about Brexit.

What do you think about the Brexit vote?

When I heard the result, I couldn’t believe my ears. We need one another, the UK and Europe, so it is not the right turn of history. Separating cultures and people is not a good decision to make. People have to come together and exchange, whether those exchanges are commercial or cultural. It is like feeding one another. So, separating like that is not something I regard as suitable... I just hope it won’t change anything. The next step is being negotiated, so we have some time, but it is very hard. Shall we close the Channel Tunnel?”

How has London changed since you opened Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester in 2007?

I have seen a major change in the scene here in London. It has become very competitive. The bar is high. There are lots of restaurants trying for a Michelin star. The ones that have one want two, and the ones that have two want three, (including chefs) Claude Bosi, Clare Smyth. There are many people here wanting to progress. We have lots of British guests and also people visiting from overseas and we have to really listen to them: keeping our roots and the DNA of contemporary French cuisine, using local produce as much as we can. But still listening to our clients in the market.

What does that mean for the restaurant?

We are looking at refurbishing the restaurant next year in August, to start something new, a new story. Every 10 to 12 years, we upgrade and change. It is my job to be innovative, to have a vision for the restaurants. I am like the artistic director giving the lines and the chefs are very important to interpret this vision, to be the main actor and they have to be supportive to what I give as a guideline. As a restaurant, we have to evolve and be in constant movement, always straining for excellence.

Why open a chocolate shop in London, your first outside France and Japan?

I sensed that there is the beginning of a strong interest in London for what we do in terms of chocolate. We have a unique product and a way of making chocolate. There is more and more interest in that kind of craftsmanship here. It feels like the right time. There might be challenges (because of Brexit), but we are happy to be here and we won’t change our minds about that.

What is so special about your chocolate?

We make everything from scratch. There is great care put into the sourcing for almonds, hazelnuts, all the nuts, the dry fruits, everything that goes into our products. We work with the beans, the way we assess the quality of the beans to tailor the roasting for each batch. We tailor all the processes so it is not like a standard process. You have to come to the manufacture in Paris to really understand. — Bloomberg LP