"Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s wonderful tale has an unusual structure and certainly
doesn’t follow the rules. Set in beautiful Paris with her glorious and distinctive
landmarks, The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie is as rich and satisfying as its music,"
says Louise Keller in her review. When Sydney based French tourism dynamo Patrick Benhamou
saw the film at a preview in October, he grinned and shook his head in approval. It was
done: his office would host the Australian premiere, as a way of instilling feelgood vibes
into Australians about France.
"In the filmic equivalent, Ducasse is like a
multi-Oscar winning director"
And watch for more of the same. Benhamou says “films are a perfect promotional tool – you have a captive audience. Amélie depicts the true Parisian ambience, with all the Parisians’ idiosyncrasies. It’ll lure a lot of Australian to Paris. And we’re always looking for more films that we can use like this.”
Benhamou didn’t wait till December, though. For November, he organised Alain
Ducasse to visit. In the filmic equivalent, Ducasse is like a multi-Oscar winning
DECORATED DUCASSE –
As the world’s most decorated chef - if the Guide Michelin is any guide, his
name is heavily inscribed in the kitchen hall of fame, with a clutch of stars that
currently total nine – you have to take him seriously. In the past decade or so,
Ducasse has risen from a celebrated chef at the Versaille-like Louis XV in Monaco, to a
celebrated chef all over the western world, with a finger in many pies, as it were. He
cooks at restaurants in Paris, New York and Monaco (as above), and also runs the Château
& Hôtels de France marketing group, promoting the country’s castles and rustic
inns which cater for foodies. Other interests include two inns in the French countryside
and the Spoon series of unusual, casual eateries in cities as varied as Tokyo and London.
Is he more a brand than a chef now? Well, no; he likes to think of his business
"something like the Louis Vuitton group, which has a culture of excellence operated
by a series of smaller operations, which cultivate the various areas of
craftsmanship" he says through his sprightly director of communications, Emmanuelle
Perrier. But he quickly sidesteps questions about the business; that’s in the hands
of his business development manager, Laurent Plantier, who is also part of the entourage.
Ducasse wears suit and tie, even in the kitchen. He lets me follow him past the pastry
chef he brought with him from France, a genial man with a moustache ensconced behind a
window in an air conditioned cubicle of carved chocolate scallops being readied for the
dessert. In the main kitchen, two other chefs are carefully slicing lobster portions as if
they were gelignite. Ducasse stops to taste the brown sauce in one of the big pots:
it’s the pressed juice made from the heads of the lobsters, to go with the pink and
white meat for entree. (It was to have been ‘marron façon Riviera’, but the
rough seas of recent days made it impossible to get the fish, so we settled for local
Ducasse came to Sydney to cook – well, to oversee the cooking – of two
special meals: one was a lunch at the Regent for about 150 hospitality industry guests and
media, hosted by Maison de la France, the French tourist bureau, whose energetic manager,
Patrick Benhamou, initiated and organised the entire visit. The second was a benefit for
the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at The Bathers Pavilion on Balmoral Beach for 100 or so
paying guests. ($1,500 each, thank you.)
"What is important is to evolve all the time"
Why did he come, other than to satisfy a fascination for Australia? To learn.
"What is important is to evolve all the time and bring new things to the table,"
Don’t know personally about the dinner, but the lunch certainly met expectations.
Not only for the food and wine, but for the smooth organisation and the excellent
atmosphere. France was shown off in all her sparkling best, with picture tours of the
regions before lunch, and the only thing missing was that clip from the film Amélie, in
the bar where she works and there is this extended lovemaking scene….but I digress.
Published December 6, 2001