Jean-Philippe Blondet: ‘I don’t believe in recipes.’

We caught up with the French chef to find out what it takes to run a three-Michelin-starred kitchen, from finding inspiration to dealing with pressure.

Updated on • Written By Ellie Donnell

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Jean-Philippe Blondet: ‘I don’t believe in recipes.’

As chef patron of Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, Jean-Philippe Blondet’s day job is one that many of the world’s most revered chefs can only dream of. Every day, the French chef trundles off to work at one of the greatest restaurants in the country, to lead a staggering team of 50 – front of house and back - on how to be the best of the best.  


The restaurant has been the holder of three Michelin stars for well over a decade and, at the time of writing, sits amongst just eight other restaurants in the country to lay claim to that accolade. It’s a mighty feat and comes with a huge amount of responsibility. So, does he feel the pressure? 

‘Yes’, the chef replies, barely taking a breath. ‘It’s a lot of pressure because I don’t want to be the one to lose a star. It’s a lot of work, especially because of the Alain Ducasse name. When you have three, it’s even more difficult because you need to be at the top of your game. When you have three, you have to push to be new all the time.' 

Jean-Philippe Blondet and Alain Ducasse are often uttered in the same breath, and in many ways, Blondet’s career has been defined by the decorated chef. He’s spent 90% of his working life at Alain Ducasse-owned restaurants, joining Spoon at Sanderson in London straight out of chef school, before heading to three-Michelin starred Le Louis XV-Alain Ducasse at l’Hôtel de Paris in Monaco. 

He entered the team at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester as sous chef in 2013, working his way up the ladder to become head chef in just two years. By 2016, Blondet was running the ship as executive chef. So yes, it might be Alain Ducasse’s name on the door, but Jean-Philippe is now very much the engine behind the entire operation, and has been for the last seven or so years.  

‘I was very lucky - I knew what I wanted to do from the beginning. It was easy.’

It wouldn’t be a great stretch to suggest that Blondet’s experiences of food as a child led him to where he is today. He grew up in Nice to two food-loving parents, and fondly recounts trips to the market with his father, ‘bonding’ with the experience of chatting to market sellers about their produce, comparing different fruits, and buying the best possible joint of meat available that day. Those were formative years for Blondet, and helped develop the budding young chef's deep-rooted appreciation for high-quality, seasonal ingredients. In his mind, he was destined for the kitchen. 

‘I was very lucky - I knew what I wanted to do from the beginning. It was easy’, he says confidently. The only hurdle at that point was having to convince everyone else.  

‘I was very bad at school. This is very important to mention. The teachers would say to my parents: ‘’I’m not sure what we’re going to do with Jean-Philippe.’’ I was like guys, take it easy.’ 

Two stunning dishes by Jean Philippe

Blondet started working in kitchens in his early teens, washing pots for three years purely to immerse himself in the hectic world of professional kitchens. ‘I was 14 and I worked every weekend. Everyone else was going to parties or whatever but me, I worked, worked, worked. It wasn’t just for the money. It was just because I wanted to learn. I wanted to understand.’ 

Clearly, the makings of a great chef were there from the beginning, and his impenetrable work ethic goes a long way to explaining how he's ended up working at some of the best restaurants in the world. You need passion, drive and ambition to run a successful three-Michelin-starred kitchen, that goes without saying. Still, Blondet’s capabilities run deeper than simply working hard.   

'I don’t believe in recipes. It’s all about the feeling of the moment.'

His innate creativity is what keeps him up at night – literally. The chef keeps a notepad next to his bed so he can jot down ideas in the middle of the night (that’s when his mind runs wild, apparently). Food as a form of self-expression is what separates his work from anyone else's, and when we ask him what it takes to lead a three-Michelin-starred team, he speaks earnestly about his approach. 

‘I don’t have any recipes. I don’t believe in recipes. It’s all about the feeling of the moment. I try to relax a bit in my mind, because sometimes when you are stressed it’s difficult to express yourself.’  

Of course, there are other, more practical elements involved in his success. He explains that it’s ‘very important to have the best produce you can find’ and spends hours every day with his team, inspecting the produce, tasting it, teaching them how to notice any discrepancies in flavour. ‘It’s very important and very difficult. I want them [the team] to understand what’s happening when they receive something. Tomatoes today will be different to tomatoes tomorrow. You need to try it to understand.’ 

More pressing is the requirement to never get anything wrong. ‘Consistency is one of the most important things – and the most difficult thing. If I had to say what the difference is between one, two and three [Michelin] stars - you cannot get it wrong. 99.9% of the time you need to be consistent.’ 

Dishes at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester

Throughout our conversation, there’s one thing Jean-Philippe comes back to again and again. His team. ‘‘What I need is my team! Without them, I could not do anything.’ He runs a tight ship, spending as much time with the front of house staff as his kitchen crew, teaching them exactly what’s on the plate and the work that goes into every dish. ‘It’s very important for them to understand what they are serving’, he explains. The whole thing runs like a well-oiled machine, always with the aim of creating the best possible experience for the diner.  

'Unlike other restaurants, we have just one team. There isn’t just pastry or the kitchen or the sommelier. We are all under the same umbrella and we are all here as a family.’

Despite the constant pressure to retain those precious stars, Jean-Philippe is ‘very happy here’. The hours are fair, the team is faultless, the produce is of the highest quality, and he gets to lead one of the best restaurants in the UK. Why would he ever leave? 

‘I want my own three Michelin starred restaurant’, he explains. It’s a competitive scene and, especially with the cost-of-living crisis causing rent and produce prices to soar, the stakes are higher than ever. Still, the chef’s infectious optimism shines through once again. ‘It’s very competitive, which is good! Everybody is different, and there is space for everybody.’  

We never doubted him for a second. 

If you could give someone starting out some words of wisdom, what would they be?   

Be patient.   

Do you have a favourite cooking gadget?  

My turning knife. It’s a small knife that you cut vegetables with. 

Can you remember the first dish that you learned to cook?   

As a professional? It was pilaf rice. It was a disaster - I didn’t put in enough water!  

Can you describe your cooking style in three words?  

Simple, flavourful and healthy.  

Do you have a favourite thing to cook at home?  

Crepes – every week. With sugar, a bit of lemon and salty butter.   

Do you have a guilty food pleasure?   

Chocolate. I can’t spend a day without it.   

What's your favourite foodie destination in the world?  

Mediterranean style for sure. I’ve been to Spain recently and really liked what they do there. Greece and Italian. I cannot say just one country!   

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing instead?   

I would be working as an estate agent. I love houses, bargaining and conversation.

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