In his astute look at the artistry and business of food, de Maistre makes the case that haute cuisine serves the same function as haute couture, creating an indelible experience while encouraging new ideas to filter through the industry. During one of the times when his insistent voice breaks in to offer background or insight, de Maistre remarks that the only time he actually saw the chef cook was on a Japanese television show. Ducasse, now 61, has evolved into something more: a tastemaker who's elevated what acolyte Daniel Barber calls "peasant food" to Michelin three-star level and writes cookbooks extolling the use of fresh, local ingredients to make simple, nourishing French cuisine.
De Maistre also reveals what Ducasse's many employees have already intuited: Don't play poker with him. While his finely calibrated palate analyzes a dish, Ducasse's face is expressionless, and his chefs hold their breath in anticipation. They strive to please the soft-spoken, exacting patriarch, knowing that he wants them to succeed, but only if they adhere to his philosophy of respecting tradition through refinement and innovation.