With more than 20 acclaimed restaurants around the world, contemporary French chef Alain Ducasse is no stranger to fanfare. But his new venues at Morpheus, the latest luxury hotel to open within the City of Dreams integrated resort complex in Macau, might be his most ambitious project yet.
On the third floor of this genre-defying tower imagined by the late Zaha Hadid, Alain Ducasse has opened two new dining concepts where ambitious design collides with world-class gastronomy. On one side of the hallway, you will enjoy approachable, bistro-style food at Voyages by Alain Ducasse, where bold orange hues, a sleek bar and contemporary artwork add a jolt of energy.
Across the way, formidable fine-dining address Alain Ducasse at Morpheus spoils you with hand-picked French wines, rare vintage glassware and limited-edition Rundes Modell cutlery.
Though suited for different occasions, both restaurants bring together inspiration from the toque’s childhood spent on a farm in southwestern France and the savoir faire of French gastronomy.
Forbes Travel Guide recently caught up with chef Ducasse at Morpheus to learn more about these two unique ventures.
This is the first time you’ve opened two distinct restaurants on one floor. How did the collaboration come to be?
It’s all about circumstances. I knew Lawrence Ho [chairman and CEO of Melco Resorts & Entertainment, behind City of Dreams] for a long time. We always had this desire to do something together, but we had to find the right project. I was completely seduced with the vision that architect Zaha Hadid had for Morpheus. The ambitious design got me very excited about the opportunity to develop multiple identities on the same floor.
How did you develop the concept for each restaurant?
We were able to develop these restaurants with my favorite designers, Jouin Manku [Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku], who we have worked with in the past.
I often draw a parallel between fashion and food. You know, you have haute couture and prêt-à-porter [ready-to-wear] in fashion. Here, it’s the same. Voyages is more accessible, like prêt-à-porter, and Alain Ducasse at Morpheus is contemporary French fine dining for more exceptional occasions. One is more country chic, bistro chic; the other is haute couture.
Did you embark on any other “firsts” with these projects?
Yes, lots of firsts. This room — the chef’s table, hidden inside Alain Ducasse at Morpheus — is totally unique. The collection of tableware, the water features, the little semi-private dining room — it’s pure, sheer luxury. It’s my most beautiful restaurant.
It was very clear from the beginning with Lawrence that he wanted something that captured the atmospheres of my restaurants in Monaco and Paris. In the end, it’s even more modern than either restaurant — this is the epitome of French gastronomy and luxury.
What’s special about Voyages in terms of design?
For Voyages, I wanted to give diners an entry point for traditional French gastronomy. It’s a perfect combination of authentic, genuine French food in a cool, casual place. It’s just as fascinating because it has this very noble purpose of welcoming people to discover traditional French cuisine.
What design details do you love at Voyages?
The chairs. They’re perfect. We have an obsession with chairs and these are some of my favorite — the width, the depth, you have enough space. It feels right.
Also, I love the sleek bar stools, the large octopus painting and the textured leather tabletops. They have an earthy feeling; it’s a very tactile, memorable element.
What about at Alain Ducasse at Morpheus?
Near the entrance of the restaurant, between the kitchen and the dining room, we have an area that we call the Pantry, which is like a cabinet of curiosities. I’m obsessed with collecting special objects, and you can explore some of my most valuable pieces here — the majority of these cookware items and glassware are more than 100 years old.
Sometimes I look at the Pantry, and I’m just in awe of all the talent it represents — all the men and women behind the savoir faire, the expertise they have poured into the creations. It’s their work, their life, their passion put into these glasses, bowls and serving plates.
There are many different items from brands like Lalique, Baccarat, Christofle, Haviland & Co., Maison Moriyama. I love this mix of very ancient pieces together with modern design. Somehow it balances perfectly and all seems to fall into place. I don’t want people to just admire these pieces. I also want executive chef Pierre Marty to use them — and he does!
Do you have any favorite pieces?
So many. They all represent experiences and stories. For example, this crystal wine glass is from Lalique, made by hand in 1920. It’s an amazing work, so incredible. I don’t know if we know how to make this style of glassware anymore with this much detail. And if we can do it, it would be very expensive.
When it comes to the menu, which dish at Alain Ducasse at Morpheus is most significant for you?
A significant dish for me is the gamberoni with gold caviar. I have a passion for two types of crustacean: one is gamberoni; the other is langoustine. In Macau, we import our gamberoni from the Gulf of Genoa, near Monaco. Of course, Monaco is where I helmed Le Louis XV for years, so the area is very close to my heart. It’s part of my DNA, my terroir. To be able to present this food here today in Macau makes me so proud.
At Voyages, which dish means the most to you?
Well, I was born and raised on a farm where we had lots of ducks roaming around. So, the most emblematic dish for me would be the French duck from Dombes with orange because of my childhood — the taste of this dish has always meant something to me.
This dish is also emblematic of French cuisine. But it’s funny, so many people think this dish is traditionally French, but the sweet and sour flavor actually originated in Florence. We later integrated the flavor into our own cuisine and created this signature French dish.
How did you choose chef Pierre Marty to helm the restaurants?
He was ready to take the lead. Pierre has been with us for a long time. He was a sous chef in Doha, Qatar, and he also worked at Le Louis XV, which is kind of the rite of passage for my chefs. He has had a lot of diverse experiences in his career so far, and I thought he was well-suited for the job.
Alain Ducasse at Morpheus has another special feature — the secret chef’s table. How did this idea come to be?
I had this idea of creating a private chef’s table. We want it to feel like you’re stepping into a private home, somewhere exclusive that still feels warm and welcoming — and not everyone has a key. We want you to have the freedom to roam around, pick your own glassware, mingle at the bar — this was my vision. So, I worked with Jouin Manku to make the design exciting as well, with a wall full of glass that offers front-row seats to the kitchen.
So, not just anyone can eat in here?
No, you can’t put any value on this room. First of all, you need to know it exists in order to ask for it — it’s one of our best-kept secrets, so don’t write too much about it.