Updated: Nov 6, 2020
Enjoy this video homage for my love of Paris to start this post about one of the best experiences of my life.
Paris is a city where I can make an annual pilgrimage. For the past three years I have done just that. It is one of a handful of cities I would pack my bags in a heartbeat and move there. I love the people, the food, the history... This blog post will center around one of the most magical events of my life in the "City of Lights". Paris Culinary Experience with Alain Ducasse.
Everyone who follows me on social media recognizes I am all about food. More so than travel, beauty care, and fashion... However, for me all of these tend to blend together. I am all for the hole in the wall joints, sleek contemporary spots, and home cooked meals as long as there is good food and a great vibe. With that said, as a self professed "female drag queen" I adore the grandiose and no place on earth does grandiose like Paris and Versailles!
Alain Ducasse is one of the most highly decorated chefs and businessmen in the world. He has three star Michelin restaurants in Paris, London, and Monaco. He is one of only two chefs to hold 21 Michelin stars throughout his career. I recently learned that in 2015, Ducasse sent meals to astronauts at the International Space Station! In 2018 when a friend informed me AMEX was partnering with Alain Ducasse for a culinary experience at his restaurants in Paris and Versailles I was practically levitating.
My introduction to the world of Ducasse occurred in 2016 when I was in Paris for a Beyoncé concert. We acquired coveted lunch reservations at his restaurant located in the five-star luxury hotel, Plaza Athénée. It the most beautiful place I have ever dined. The service is impeccable. It feels as if the entire staff is tending to your needs because at one point in time everyone made a point of checking on our table. Crystal raindrops dance from the ceiling. Silver seating pods glisten.
For the Culinary Experience guests were welcomed to the Plaza Athénée for a 'naturalness' cocktail style reception and conversation with Alain Barraton, Head Gardener of Versailles gardens, and Romain Meder, Head Chef. We were able to visit the various stations to taste various creations using ingredients from the gardens of Versailles. All the while champagne and cocktails were flowing, including Alain Ducasse's own branded champagne! Next we were provided a brief tour of the kitchen to meet some of the up and coming chefs who are being cultivated by culinary masters.
We were escorted to the main dining room for a six course, wine paired lunch. This allowed me to learn more about the other guests seated at my table. Everyone was from the US and came from all around the country and had varying backgrounds.
After lunch I headed to my hotel. I had arrived in Paris on a 6am flight from London and headed directly to the lunch. It is safe to say I was feeling like a "hooker on nickel night". Can you imagine on a beautiful, sunny Paris day I am laying in bed? I had no choice because I had to rest up for the encore at Versailles.
After what seemed like the briefest nap in history I woke giddy with excitement for the next leg of the experience. Versailles is the third most visited monument in France and just the prior year I was spellbound by my first visit. As I stood mesmerized by the Hall of Mirrors I said my dream would be to have a dinner party or reception at Versailles. It still felt surreal that one of my dreams was about to come true.
I decided to go formal in a beautiful gown. Of course it had to be purple; the color of royalty! Despite a wardrobe malfunction with the upper back zipper, I felt like Cinderella as we were taken on a private tour of the palace. The tour culminated in salon rooms with light bites and glasses of Dom Pérignon. My personal highlight was meeting Mr. Ducasse. He asked where I came from and his response of "I love Chicago" warmed me.
After the ceremonial (and dramatic) proclamation for the start of dinner, guests were divided up among various dining rooms at "Ducasse au Château de Versailles". The tables were elaborately, yet elegantly dressed. I was told the china and glassware was purchased by Mr. Ducasse over the years on various trips. I loved the added touch that not all of the place settings matched, yet they perfectly complimented each other.
The 18th century inspired eight-course, wine-paired dinner was opulent, yet tasteful and served with military precision. The courses were beautiful as well as delicious. Even the grapes were the best I ever tasted and I gorged on them at the end of the meal despite being completely full. The ceremony and ritual of the dinner exceeded my expectations. I truly ate like royalty.
At dusk the following day I traveled back to Versailles. Each Saturday in the summer there are performances in the royal state Apartments and the Hall of Mirrors which pay homage to the reign of Louis XIV; followed by fountain light shows in the gardens. My evening culminated with a class of champagne as I watched the fireworks display.
My heart was full as I rode back to Paris and I thanked the universe for another life affirming experience. #blessed