Cuisine de l’essentiel
Sometimes a master is best understood by those close to him. Alain Ducasse, the world-renowned chef who has held 21 Michelin stars over the course of his career, needs little introduction especially given the expansion of his activities into the realm of publishing, vegetable cultivation and culinary theory. Alain Ducasse’s long-running ‘number two’, Jocelyn Herland, may be less of a household name yet his hands are nevertheless the makers of magic.
Executive chef Jocelyn Herland at Le Meurice executes the unique culinary philosophy of Ducasse, guided by the watchwords of excellence, elegance and experience. It also celebrates the idea of ‘la cuisine de l’essentiel’, which remains ever faithful to the truth of the ingredient and honest, interpretable dishes. The chef is considered a messenger who takes care to preserve the authentic savours of exceptional ingredients and transport them from the kitchen to the table. For the diner to experience true pleasure, the technical intervention of the chef must be imperceptible.
Thus enters – silently, invisibly – the technical mastery of chef Herland. He has accompanied Alain Ducasse since 1997. “When you love to work with someone, there is really no reason to leave,” he has said. Chef Herland started as chef de partie at Le 59, Alain Ducasse’s restaurant on avenue Poincaré. In 2000, he moved to the Restaurant Opéra. In December 2003, he joined Christophe Moret at the Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée restaurant where he was first sous-chef, then chef adjoint. Ducasse then gave him oversight of the kitchens of his restaurant Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester when it opened in London in November 2007; the restaurant was awarded three Michelin stars in 2010. He took the helm of the kitchens at Le Meurice in 2016.
The heritage, talent and hard work of chef Herland can be found in the menu’s traditional nods to French haute cuisine, for example, with the guinea fowl pie in a delicate shortcrust at Restaurant le Meurice Alain Ducasse. Or, in the dialogue between the traditional Parisian brasserie and the Mediterranean cuisine found at Restaurant Le Dalí.
Born in Auvergne, France, Jocelyn Herland first discovered the pleasure of eating at his grandparents, whom he describes as ‘gourmets’. This has surely influenced his ability to partake in Alain Ducasse’s vision of ‘la cuisine de l’essentiel’; it takes traditional French cuisine beyond the heavy use of butter and cream, and back to its roots of exceptionally cultivated ingredients. “Yes, he has his vision,” says chef Herland, “but it is really a shared vision”. And the result is a delicious one indeed.
© Yaffa Assouline for Collect magazine N°24
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