France’s Most Esteemed Chef Is Dropping Most Meats From His Menu
Alain Ducasse, famous worldwide for his phenomenal haute cuisine, has more Michelin stars than any chef alive today. When a legendary French master chef decides it’s time to drop meat from his menu, foodies of the world pay attention.
That’s just what Ducasee did last week at his opulent flagship restaurant at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris. What’s even better is that he didn’t do it to be trendy or to attract a hipper crowd. Ducasse has realized the toll our food choices take on the earth.
“The planet’s resources are rare, we must consume more ethically and equitably,” Ducasse told AFP. He says he’s now striving for more “naturalness.”
Gone are the sumptuous dishes that rely on beef, veal, duck, foie gras, pork or bacon. Where once he served guinea fowl pie and frogs legs beignets, Ducasse now serves cuisine “based on a trio of exceptional produce: fish, cereals and vegetables.”
Those organic grains and veggies will come straight from the gardens of the Palace of Versailles, built by King Louis XIV in the mid-1600s. Never fear, these revamped meal selections will remain as high toned and pricey as ever, with dinner going for an astonishing $500 (380 euros) per person.
No, it’s not a vegetarian menu, but it’s purposely veggie-centric. Fish is still there, and some select meats may make an occasional appearance. Nevertheless, for a master chef admired around the world for his way with food, this decision represents a watershed moment for elite restaurants.
Ducasse believes how we eat matters for reasons other than simple gastric delight. Will others agree and follow his lead?
What Meat Production Does to Our World
Our planet consumes meat at an incredible rate. We eat more of it every year, it seems. That fact drives a frightening level of environmental damage. Consider these facts:
- Producing meat requires eight times the amount of fossil fuels it takes to produce plant-based proteins.
- A whopping “30 percent of the world’s total ice-free surface is used not to raise grains, fruits and vegetables that are directly fed to human beings, but to support the chickens, pigs and cattle that we eventually eat,” reports Time magazine.
- Raising livestock requires one-third of the world’s drinkable water
- The Food and Agriculture Organization reports that 18 percent of greenhouse gases attributable to humans comes from livestock.
- In the U.S., growing livestock feed requires 17 billion pounds of nitrogen fertilizer and 167 million pounds of pesticides, much of which ends up in stormwater runoff in our waterways, causing significant problems.
- A staggering 80 percent of deforestation in the Amazon is caused by cattle ranching.
The list doesn’t stop there, and doesn’t even scratch the surface of the cruelty-based arguments against factory farming, but you get the idea. To be able to feed a growing world population, we need to reduce our reliance on meat and transition to a more plant-based way of eating. Some say if we don’t do so voluntarily, circumstances may force it upon us down the road. Yes, Ducasse is on to something.
Sugar and Cream? Exit Stage Left, Please
The changes Ducasse just implemented aren’t limited to “more vegetables” and “less flesh.” Ducasse is on the warpath against cream and sugar as well.
“My obsession is to remove sugar,” Ducasse told AFP. Even when his customers make special requests for cream or caramel with chocolate, they’ll get a firm no.
To give in is “just globalization,” he said. “We all eat the same fat and the same sweets.”
For now, these menu changes apply only at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée restaurant. Ducasse heads up 20 other elite restaurants around the world, including in London, Tokyo and New York. Time will tell whether he’ll adopt these revolutionary changes at all his venues.
Little by little and one by one, these are the decisions that will save our world.
Photo credit (main image): br1dotcom/Wikimedia Commons