The most important chef in the world today is Massimo Bottura.
Bottura is the three-star Michelin chef responsible for pioneering modern Italian gastronomy. Just last June, his restaurant, Osteria Francescana, was declared No. 1 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants List.
But the most important chef to Bottura is Alain Ducasse.
Food and drink editor Allan Jenkins wrote in The Guardian just two years ago: “Ask (Bottura) what was the most important day in his life and he’ll say it was when he met Alain Ducasse. Note: not when he met or married his wife or when his son or daughter was born. Ducasse was impressed when he ate at Trattoria Campazzo (Bottura’s first restaurant) in 1992 and invited him to work with him in Monte Carlo (at Ducasse’s flagship restaurant Le Louis XV). A few months later, Bottura had sold the trattoria and moved to the Riviera.”
Why Ducasse? Jenkins continues: “It was at restaurant Louis XV, at the birth of modern Mediterranean cooking, (Bottura) says, that he truly learned to rely on his palate: ‘Ducasse tore up my notes, taught me to stand on my own. That was the moment I learned to think.’”
I remembered this piece of culinary trivia as I drove home last week from the Tuloy Foundation in Alabang, where Ducasse paid a private, unpublicized, no-media-allowed visit to the scholars of the Youth With A Future program by the Alain Ducasse Institute Philippines (Ducasse Institute) at Enderun Colleges.
The legendary chef literally just flew in for the day to be with the scholars, and to personally award the Youth With A Future Certificate in Culinary Arts from Ducasse Institute to the current batch of scholars, who will now begin their internships.
The Youth With A Future Program was conceived as a replica of the Women with a Future (Femmes en Avenir) program by the Alain Ducasse Education in France. This was an initiative wherein underprivileged women from Paris were given a “future” by empowering them through a culinary arts program.
Ducasse wanted to show, through this program, what can be done if everyone, not only public bodies but also private companies, got involved. He promised each woman on the program a job in one of his 15 Paris restaurants if they obtained their diploma, in the hopes of changing their lives for the better. The program was a great success and the women who previously seemed to have no hope are now successfully employed.
Patterned after this, Youth with a Future gives a “future” to chosen youth—streetkids fostered by the Tuloy Foundation—by empowering them through scholarships with the Ducasse Institute, with the opportunity to be trained by chefs who work with Alain Ducasse himself.
I have followed the development of the program since it was launched in 2014 (hence the invitation to the dinner even if no media were allowed) and am most amazed at the dedication and commitment that Alain Ducasse himself has shown.
When the program was trying to get off the ground, he personally flew in for the fundraiser that was held to jumpstart the program and for the first batch of scholars.
Chef Jerrome Lacressonnière, then Chef Instructor of the Ducasse Institute at Enderun, whipped up a fabulous Ducasse-inspired dinner; and after dinner, there was an auction of Ducasse’s personal items such as his apron and mortar and pestle, as well as complimentary dinners at his various Michelin-star restaurants abroad. The event raised P2 million for the benefit of the scholars.
Now on the program’s third year, Ducasse paid a quick visit for another dinner, but this time, the menu was cooked in his honor by the beneficiary-scholars themselves.
The program has successfully graduated 20 scholars (10 each year) and has another batch of 10 who just received the much-coveted Youth With A Future Certificate in Culinary Arts from the Ducasse Institute and are about to go on internships.
But more than the certificates, the future of these youth—as promised by the program—is now secure: the graduates have been successfully employed by top restaurants in the Philippines such as Chateau 1771, Cirkulo and Vask; and by the Four Seasons in Dubai at Jumeirah Beach, among other partners. The Four Seasons, in fact, has been so impressed that it has hired a total of eight scholars and is looking to recruit many more.
James Diño, one of the scholars who ended up working at the Four Seasons Dubai, was even given the Employee of the Month award in June 2015.
“The demand for YWAF scholars is now so great, it seems we should produce more graduates!” said Tricia Tensuan, Vice President for Admission and External Relations of Enderun Colleges.
This has left Ducasse very inspired.
“He is very proud of the scholars. When he bit into the the dish that Nelyn (Hatol, one of the YWAF program graduates) prepared, he said, ‘Perfect!’” Tensuan shared.
Tensuan was seated across from Ducasse at the VIP table last Thursday for the dinner by the Tuloy Foundation scholars/graduates in his honor. It was the turn of the beneficiaries to showcase what they had learned. They served a menu guided by Chef See Cheong Yan, culinary head of Enderun Colleges, and Chef Marc Chalopin, executive chef of Ducasse Institute, but prepared entirely by themselves.
Ducasse was impressed by Nelyn’s main course of buro using heirloom rice served with tilapia, which she just learned from Chef Chele Gonzalez at Vask. Tensuan noted that the execution of the dish by Nelyn was perfectly balanced and not salty, as expected of the usual buro.
Pay it forward
The “being inspired” part is clearly contagious as it seems that all beneficiaries now seek to become the best cooks, to make their mentors, especially Ducasse, proud and pay forward this good fortune that Ducasse, the Ducasse Institute, Enderun Colleges, Tuloy Foundation have given them.
Nelyn, from the first batch of scholars, has just been promoted to become demi-chef de partie at Vask, a partner of the program. She is only 21 years old.
“It has been three years and three batches as of date,” she shared with the guests as the program closed, “and I am very glad that I was a part of this program. … I am standing here on behalf of everyone whom you have helped, to thank you for all your efforts. It is now time for us to live up to what we have learned and to spread your good deeds. … What we all can do now is to share (this blessing you have given us), to help others realize their dreams, to believe that they, too, can do it. Rest assured that we will live a decent life with a grateful heart.”
Ducasse, for his part, hopes to keep inspiring these future chefs.
“You must work more, improve yourself, get better and have excellent standards every day,” he reminded them. “But you must also find pleasure in your work,” he cautioned. “It is a decision. If you do not find pleasure, change jobs.” But most importantly, he encouraged them all to continue dreaming. “There is no limit (to dreaming and achieving your dreams)!” he stressed.
Tensuan shared that Ducasse had mentioned that his dream was to have one of the Tuloy Foundation-Ducasse Institute scholars become the executive chef of one of his restaurants.
Perhaps this was his dream for Bottura as well, when, many years ago, Ducasse picked him out of that small restaurant in Italy and brought him to Le Louis XV.
Bottura may not have stayed on to become the Chef de Cuisine of any of Ducasse’s restaurants, but certainly Ducasse strengthened Bottura’s wings and contributed in inspiring him to become the best chef that he can be … and today he is the World’s Best Chef!
Whatever magic Ducasse sprinkled on Bottura, he for sure continues to sprinkle on aspiring chefs with great potential today, including and especially the Youth With A Future scholars. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a decade or so, one of these scholars not only becomes executive chef of a 3 Michelin star Ducasse restaurant but also becomes regarded among the world’s best chefs.
And when these future great chefs are asked what is the most important day of their lives, they may just look back and say—as Bottura did—that it was when they met Alain Ducasse.
Youth with a Future, a program of Alain Ducasse Education, Enderun Colleges and Alain Ducasse Institute Philippines, aims to support and provide educational scholarships every year to a select group of culinary students of Tuloy Foundation. With the strong internship and career placement program of Enderun Colleges, the school also extends support to the students in securing internships and job opportunities. For inquiries on how you can donate, please contact Angel Cordero at 8565000 local 574 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
More from the author including past articles on the Youth With A Future program and dining at Alain Ducasse restaurants at margauxsalcedo.com. Follow @margauxsalcedo on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.
Underprivileged kids set as future world-class chefs.
From being street children with limited chances of a better future, 10 scholars from the Tuloy Sa Don Bosco Foundation have finally graduated from their three-month training at the highly-acclaimed Ducasse Institute in the Philippines.
The French-born Alain Ducasse, a celebrated chef and restaurateur who holds 21 Michelin stars, began a social responsibility initiative in the country called “Youth with a Future” to give these young kids a chance to change their lives by learning the “true craft of cooking.”
In a graduation ceremony held at the Enderun College, the scholars receive their certificate from the Ducasse Institute Philippines after having undergone an intensive culinary program.
Guests who attended the ceremony were donors and supporters of Youth with a Future, including David Batchelor, the managing director of Raffles and Fairmont Hotel in Makati City. Also in attendance were Dr. Edgardo Rodriguez, president of Enderun Colleges and Fr. Rocky Evangelista, founder of Tuloy sa Don Bosco Foundation.
The 10 scholars were also tasked to prepare a sumptuous dinner for their guests, with the guidance of Enderun College’s Culinary division head, Chef Cheong Yan See.
After the students impressed guests with their culinary talents, Tuloy Foundation’s Evangelista expressed his gratitude to the generous donors who invested in the scholars.
He emphasized his goal to eradicate the society of homeless children by giving them opportunities to pursue their dreams.
Each student was finally awarded with a Certificate of Culinary Arts from Ducasse Education in France. Furthermore, the scholars were successfully placed for internship at acclaimed establishments such as Vask, Chateau 1771, Soprano Restaurant of the City of Dreams, and Raffles and Fairmont Makati. There were also four scholars who have been accepted to work at the Four Seasons Resort in Dubai.
Youth with a Future was inspired by Ducasse’s Women with a Future initiative also by famed Ducasse, where underprivileged women from Paris are selected to train for a year in a specially designed culinary program. This time, the chef wanted to “contribute to the global fight against poverty,” as stated in the foundation’s website.
Tuloy Foundation is a non-government and non-profit organization that provides residential care and comprehensive educational programs for street children in order to reintegrate them into mainstream society. In close coordination with Tuloy, Ducasse Institute Philippines enhanced the curriculum of Tuloy’s culinary center by patterning it after the existing programs offered in Enderun’s campus. Following an eight-month program in Tuloy’s campus, the scholars were exposed to further training at Ducasse Institute Philippines for three months.
Another batch of scholars from Tuloy Foundation will be accepted next year. For those who wish to support this project, visit www.youthwithafuture.ph or email email@example.com.
Three months after their culinary training at Ducasse Institute Philippines, 10 scholars of the Youth with a Future initiative had their graduation ceremony at Enderun Colleges’ Restaurant 101. These 10 scholars from Tuloy Foundation were chosen to have their culinary training at Ducasse Institute Philippines after a successful charity dinner and auction held last March with guest of honor, world-renowned chef and founder of Ducasse Education, chef Alain Ducasse. Among the guests of the graduation ceremony were donors and supporters of Youth with a Future, including David Batchelor, managing director of Raffles and Fairmont Makati, a long-time supporter of Tuloy. Also in attendance were Dr. Edgardo Rodriguez, president of Enderun Colleges and Fr. Rocky Evangelista, founder of Tuloy Foundation. As part of their graduation, chef Cheong Yan See, culinary head of Enderun Colleges, assigned the scholars to prepare dinner for the guests. The four-course menu consisted of Seafood Vera Cruz, assorted cold seafood, tomato syrup; beef consommé celestine, double beef consommé with fine herb crepe; Moroccan spiced beef tenderloin, carrot, chermoula, couscous; and Menton lemon tart. After the dinner service, Fr. Evangelista expressed his gratitude to the generous donors who invested in the scholars. He emphasized his goal to eradicate the society of homeless children by giving them opportunities to pursue their dreams. Chef See then awarded each student with a Certificate of Culinary Arts from Ducasse Education in France. Furthermore, he formally announced that the scholars were successfully placed for internship at acclaimed establishments — Vask, Chateau 1771, Soprano Restaurant of the City of Dreams, and Raffles and Fairmont Makati. He added that four of the scholars have been accepted to work at Four Seasons Resort Dubai. A project of Ducasse Education in France and Ducasse Institute Philippines at Enderun Colleges, Youth with a Future was inspired by the “Women with a Future” initiative led by Alain Ducasse Enterprise where underprivileged women from Paris are selected to train for a year in a specially designed culinary program. The training program concludes with an apprenticeship in one of Alain Ducasse’s restaurants. Similarly, Youth with a Future aims to support and provide educational scholarships to a select group of culinary students of Tuloy Foundation. Tuloy Foundation is a non-government and non-profit organization that provides residential care and comprehensive educational programs for street children in order to reintegrate them into mainstream society. In close coordination with Tuloy, Ducasse Institute Philippines enhanced the curriculum of Tuloy’s culinary center by patterning it after the existing programs offered in Enderun’s campus. Following an eight-month program in Tuloy’s campus, the scholars were exposed to further training at Ducasse Institute Philippines for three months. Youth with a Future is a long-term initiative of Ducasse Education in France and Ducasse Institute Philippines. Another batch of scholars from Tuloy Foundation will be accepted next year. For those who wish to support this project, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.youthwithafuture.ph.
Three months after their culinary training at Ducasse Institute Philippines, ten scholars of the Youth with a Future initiative had their graduation ceremony at Enderun Colleges’ Restaurant 101.
These 10 scholars from Tuloy Foundation were chosen to have their culinary training at Ducasse Institute Philippines after a successful charity dinner and auction held last March with guest of honor, world-renowned chef and founder of Ducasse Education, chef Alain Ducasse.
Among the guests of the graduation ceremony were donors and supporters of Youth with a Future, including David Batchelor,managing director of Raffles and Fairmont Makati, a long-time supporter of Tuloy. Also in attendance were Dr. Edgardo Rodriguez, president of Enderun Colleges and Fr. Rocky Evangelista, founder of Tuloy Foundation.
A project of Ducasse Education in France and Ducasse Institute Philippines at Enderun Colleges, Youth with a Future was inspired by the “Women with a Future” initiative led by Alain Ducasse Enterprise where underprivileged women from Paris are selected to train for a year in a specially designed culinary program. The training program concludes with an apprenticeship in one of Alain Ducasse’s restaurants. Similarly, Youth with a Future aims to support and provide educational scholarships to a select group of culinary students of Tuloy Foundation.
Tuloy Foundation is a non-government and non-profit organization that houses and educates street children in order to reintegrate them into mainstream society.
Those who wish to support this project, visit www.youthwithafuture.ph or email email@example.com.
Sometimes dreams do come true. Even the wildest ones.
“Gusto ko lang makapag-aral (I just want to study),” said a scholar of Tuloy Foundation—an organization that sends street children to school with a special curriculum designed to rehabilitate them through a systemic approach for growth and development.
Last year Enderun Colleges partnered with Tuloy to give 10 kids scholarships at Ducasse Institute Philippines, with the opportunity to be trained by chefs who work with Alain Ducasse himself.
The dream of “just studying” was realized with not an ordinary diploma but a Ducasse Education Certificate in Culinary Arts. The kids are now equipped with excellent kitchen skills at par with some of the best cooks in the world.
These skills were tested at the kids’ recent “graduation dinner.” The quiet sophistication of Ducasse techniques were evident in the dishes. What looked like an ordinary shrimp salad was a Seafood Veracruz that Bel Castro, assistant dean at Enderun who has had some Ducasse training herself, was audibly awestruck.
“Look at this,” she said, lifting a lettuce leaf that had been cut in the shape of a clover. “They had to cut it in this same shape for all 40 plates!”
The consomme was as good as what you would find in a five-star hotel. The Moroccan Spiced Beef Tenderloin was seasoned well and oh so tender. And the Menton Lemon Tart, Bel attested, was as fine as you would find in any other Ducasse restaurant.
All these were cooked by the graduates, who are between 18 and 21 years old. They had no prior training in the kitchen. They learned everything within less than a year: eight months under chef JP Migne at Tuloy Foundation; and three months under chef Cheong Yan See (fondly called Chef See), Enderun Colleges culinary head, at Ducasse Institute Philippines.
In such a short time, through the generosity of people who provide the money—studying at Enderun can be very expensive—the scholars leave not only with their dreams fulfilled, but also gain lifelong friends, wisdom from mentors, and knowledge and skills that can never be taken away from them.
But the journey does not end there. The kids will be entering the real world with internships at highly respected restaurants. They have been accepted at Vask, Chateau 1771 and the yet-to-open Soprano; and four of them will be deployed to Dubai to work at no less than the Four Seasons Hotel!
The four Ducasse Institute interns won’t have to worry about Filipino food cravings when they get to Dubai because Tapa King is now in the United Arab Emirates—with a branch in Karama, Dubai, because of the growing population of Filipinos in that city, which is said to be nearly a million.
Tapa King also plans to open branches in other countries. It’s a royal Pinoy conquest of the world: one Tapa King at a time!
Speaking of “kings,” I would like to give a shout-out to the chief of our family, Ephraim Cuadra Salcedo. While I credit my Bulacan roots for my love for flavor, I thank my dad for exposing me to the best restaurants when we were younger. One of my fondest memories was when he pointed out the difference between rare and medium-well steak at the Waldorf Astoria’s Bull and Bear, even as he wore the table napkin like a bib (as he always does). Belated Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!
Monégasque chef Alain Ducasse visits the Philippines on a mission to help the underprivileged find new hope and livelihood by acquiring culinary skills, ideas, and expertise.
‘It’s not part of my mission to influence others. I would rather have other countries or people preserve their own identity.’
I had a moment of trepidation faced with the prospect of meeting Alain Ducasse, the renowned Monégasque chef and restaurateur who was in Manila just last week. After all, Ducasse is someone who knows food like the back of his hand. And, as I discovered, he prefers to speak in French rather than in English. Did I know enough about food and the nuances of food to ask him about them and to talk to him in a manner that would not be a waste of his time?
It was a relief to know that my fears were unfounded. A few minutes before our tête-à-tête at the Enderun Colleges, I talked to some student facilitators first, who assured me based on previous encounters that Ducasse was not only personable but deeply engaging, interested in the world and the people around him.
“He’s coming,” said a student facilitator. I heard him before I saw him, heard his confident stride before he appeared through the doorway, as he entered with some security around him and a few colleagues, one of whom was in charge of translation.
Ducasse was in a pair of jeans and leather shoes, a button-up shirt, and a soft blazer—all in the hues of blue. He wore a pair of glasses, not sunnies, but prescription glasses. Almost self-effacingly, he asked where he would sit, subjecting himself to the whims of the photographer who instructed him to sit on a green chair against a white wall for some pictures. He obliged for a few minutes, and then he moved to another chair to sit next to me.
And so began the first round of pleasantries. In French, he shared, rather profusely, though maybe that was just how French always sounded, full of feelings, almost passionate, that his Philippine visit had been spectacular, even if it was just a business trip. “Based on my observation here in the Philippines, I’m happy that more and more students are getting into culinary education,” beamed Ducasse. “There’s additional motivation among the students to be the best.”
This chef is a staunch advocate of education, abiding by the credo that culinary skills and expertise can help people get better chances in life. This belief is materialized in Ducasse Education, an organization that hopes to equip aspiring chefs with the training needed for them to be globally competitive. He has been known to grab every opportunity to share his knowledge generously. In 2010, he made his and his team’s mentorship available for underprivileged women in Paris through “Women with a Future,” an initiative that sought to train such women through a special culinary program, which included apprenticeships in Ducasse’s restaurants.
Here in the Philippines, the Ducasse Institute Philippines at Enderun Colleges also launched “Youth with a Future.” This program aims to mentor and educate beneficiaries (mostly former street children) from the Tuloy Sa Don Bosco foundation through culinary classes, internships, and job opportunities.
“The culinary world has the potential to improve people’s lives through better life skills,” said Ducasse. “This is our way of reinstating people back into society in a productive way. By providing them with education, we give them a chance to have better jobs and teach them to be financially independent. It’s really natural for me to help others and to transmit my knowledge to people who need it most.”
Despite his international acclaim, Ducasse is likely to brush off any ideas about being influential. “It’s not part of my mission to influence others,” he said. “I would rather have other countries or people preserve their own identity.” To explain, he recalled one particular experience in Japan: “When I was in Japan, there was this guy who tried to offer me some American coffee. I replied, ‘I don’t even want American coffee here in Japan. Can you show me a place that serves authentic Japanese coffee?’” The Japanese man was stunned, as far as Ducasse could tell, but eventually he relented, directing Ducasse to a small, rundown coffee house that served Japanese coffee. “It wasn’t a fancy place but the experience I had there was authentic and memorable,” he beamed.
Travel has immeasurably given Ducasse a wider perspective on food. “I don’t play favorites when it comes to the countries I’ve visited,” he said. “In my opinion, each country has its own fascinating culture, which I think is essential for culinary success.”
To illustrate his point, he said that while looking at the culinary practices of various countries is okay, it’s still best for an aspiring restaurateur to bank on his home country’s seasonal produce and cuisine, applying foreign techniques only when and where applicable. “It’s a big decision to do so,” he urged. “Like in fashion, it’s better to create something than to follow something.”
On a larger scale, this go-local approach reflects the world’s efforts into practicing environment-friendly measures. “As far as I’m concerned, there’s going to be an emphasis on cuisines that care for limited natural resources. This means that more vegetables and fruits are going to be used while there’s going to be less consumption of livestock,” said Ducasse, who also advocates sustainable development. “I think, for example, it’s not sensible for a fish to travel 12,000 miles via plane or ship just to cater to the market across the seas.”
What does it feel like to be such a global success, with his Michelin-starred restaurants and celebrity status? Ducasse was thoughtful for a moment, as if looking for answers. “I travel a lot but what I’m doing is just a hobby more than anything else,” he said. “I think there will come a time I will have to look for a serious job.”