After twelve years spent in Alain Ducasse’s various restaurants in France, Jocelyn Herland (39) arrived in London in 2007 to become Executive Chef when Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester first opened. While it must have been daunting to open a new restaurant under the name of the most famous chef in the world –and the only one to have held 19 Michelin stars throughout his career-, he must have made his master proud, by succeeding to receive three Michelin stars in both 2010 and 2011- an achievement only shared with Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant in Chelsea. Here, the Auvergne-born chef speaks to Chic-Londres about his cuisine and favourite addresses in the British capital.
When did you decide you wanted to become a chef? From the age of ten, I wanted to be either a butcher or a cook, and really enjoyed cooking easy dishes for my family. I started learning the trade when I was 18, when I became old enough to decide what I wanted to do without having to follow my parents’ advice, which was to do more academic studies.
How would you describe the British approach to food? First, I would say that the French influence is quite obvious, if only because the culture of gastronomy was introduced in London by Frenchmen, namely the Roux brothers, who went on to train notable British chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Marco-Pierre White or Marcus Wareing. But what makes London really unique is its capacity to absorb many cultural influences, not only in the variety of nationalities that one can find here, but also in the way that this diversity is reflected on the plate.
How would you describe your restaurant’s style? Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester offers a contemporary interpretation of classic French gastronomy. But a restaurant is not defined only by its cuisine but also by its atmosphere, and that’s where it differs from its French counterparts: while most people in Paris would never dare to eat in a gastronomic restaurant by fear of not fitting in, there is no such issue in here, where the approach to gastronomy is much more relaxed, which is something I really love.
Do you have a signature-dish? We have a few, such as the “sauté gourmand” of lobster with truffled chicken quenelles and homemade pasta, the wild sea bass with citrus and Swiss chards and the fillet of beef Rossini, with crunchy cos lettuce and “sacristain” potatoes.
What defines a good chef in your opinion? The fact that he has respect for the product and for others, notably for the client: a chef needs to remain humble, as his job is nothing more than cooking food and giving some enjoyment to the others in the process. So for example, if I have parents coming here with a kid who wants some chicken with fries, I will cook it for him, even if this is not on the menu and no matter how many Michelin stars the restaurant has got. A good chef must aslo respect his team, from his deputy to the one who cleans the dishes, because everyone is needed in equal measure for the cuisine to run smoothly. Someone who shouts at his staff and refuses to share belongs to the past.
What are your favourite restaurants in London, apart from yours? I really like Antonin Bonnet’s The Greenhouse (27a Hay’s Mews W1), because he offers a very pleasing and well thought of menu. I also enjoy Maze (10-13 Grosvenor Square W1), for its interesting concept of gastronomic tapas, and I love going for brunch at Hélène Darroze at The Connaught (Carlos Place W1), because it is not only very good but also very affordable.
What is your favourite dish and is there something you really dislike? I can’t stand raw pepper, but apart from that, there is no dish I really don’t like. Typically for someone born in the Auvergne region, I absolutely love cheese and charcuterie, as well as French traditional dishes like blanquette de veau and petit salé aux lentilles.
Do you have any culinary tip for us? To do a great Sunday roast chicken, just stuff it with a lemon cut in four pieces and two crushed cloves of garlic , with a bit of pepper and butter on top -with four or five potatoes on the side. Once cooked, the lemon is candied and it’s excellent!