“Everything is close by in Monaco, so at around nine o’ clock on Saturday morning I walk from home, in the city centre, to Casa del Caffe to have my morning espresso. I never have breakfast; I eat enough as it is. Instead, I indulge a bit later at the wonderful Marché de la Condamine, which is by the port and is the epitome of a Mediterranean food market. From the outside, Monaco looks very grand, but in reality it is a village, and it’s important to protect the local people’s incomes.
At the market, I’ll meet Benoît Witz, who started with me as a commis chef 31 years ago prepping vegetables, and is now head chef of Le Vistamar at the Hôtel Hermitage. We’ll taste and buy our way around the market, stopping at A Roca for barbajuans, a delicious Monégasque speciality of deep-fried half-moon-shaped ravioli stuffed with cheese, herbs or pumpkin – we serve a version of them in my restaurant here and at The Dorchester in London – and at Le Comptoir for a glass of wine at the communal tables. I always have Bellet Blanc, an inexpensive wine from Nice – we served it when I cooked for Prince Albert’s wedding in 2011.
I came here around 30 years ago when Prince Rainier III was looking for a young chef to bring gastronomy to Monaco. I didn’t talk about French “haute cuisine” but about creating a Monégasque style. We clicked, he put his trust in me and my restaurant, Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse à l’Hôtel de Paris, and I have been here ever since.
After the market, I’ll walk to the majestic Musée Océanographique, which has a 100m façade on the cliff face. I sit and watch the fish for an hour to relax: for once, I don’t have to run anywhere. Sustainable fishing and protecting the environment is a passion of mine; Monaco was one of the first countries to ban the trade in bluefin tuna – it’s very forward-thinking.
I often walk from the museum to the Japanese Garden, which is very Zen, and then head for Thai lunch at Maya Bay. I don’t tend to cook with spices, but I enjoy them in cuisines where they are part of the tradition. I’ll order the steamed dumplings and the chefs’ choice, along with the tom yam kung soup and a light Asian beer. It’s likely I will bump into someone I know; the Principality is a small place.
Then, I might call into Hermès to buy a notebook. I never go anywhere without one, because writing everything down clarifies my thoughts. I always tell myself it isn’t spending but investing.
Later I’ll meet my friend Gérard Jourdan, who sells vintage cars, at Bar Salle Blanche in the casino for a classic Negroni: I like bitters. We’ll eat at Il Terrazzino, where the chef Raffaele Russo will choose the antipasti, our wine and our pasta, usually with truffles in winter. I spend my life making decisions about food so it’s nice when someone else does it.
On Sunday morning I go to the restaurant at the Hôtel de Paris to taste new dishes with the brigade. It’s a constructive time and it’s how our signature dishes evolve. It’s also an early lunch. Afterwards I visit Villa Paloma, part of the New National Museum of Monaco, to see the contemporary art.
In the evening I have dinner with my tailor and friend, Georges Feghaly, at Le Vistamar. We dine on the terrace with a view of the sea and Benoît will cook us a perfect John Dory on the bone, a day old so it’s fresh but not too fresh, or the fish will be tense. He grills it very slowly with olive oil, dried fennel and organic lemon and we enjoy it with the local Luc Masurel Château Trians Jean white wine.
I’m in bed by 10pm and I go straight to sleep, because I’ll be up to catch the first plane to Paris.”