SAINT-TROPEZ – Star, entrepreneur, chef, and the most decorated cook in the world, Alain Ducasse always has a place to be. He’s perpetually traveling around the world from one of his restaurants to another: from Paris to Tokyo, from Abu Dhabi to Las Vegas, he’s always curious to see where the flavors will take him.
We met him last week in Saint-Tropez for the opening of his brand-spanking new restaurant Rivea (replacing Spoon, which had previously occupied the space) inside the glamorous and iconic hotel, Le Byblos.
With décor by Italian duo Antonio Citterio and Patricia Viel and a new menu, inspirations have been drawn from both land and sea. The myriad of antipasti includes Italian salumi products, reef octopus, candied sardines, small pizzas know as pizzette, and prosciutto from Massimo "The Culatello King" Spigaroli himself -- now, how about that?!
Thirty thriving restaurants later and Ducasse reveals to us five of his secrets to success:
“Hospitality is an art. You can only reach perfection if you shape the premises in your own image. Nothing comes close to those country inns that are also people’s homes. You will never forget your stay.”
“It’s an infinite source of inspiration for a cook. The only source, really. I’m forever bedazzled by it. Everything pleases me, from the color of an eggplant to the shimmering scales of a red mullet.”
“Take away what isn’t necessary. Too many ingredients will confuse the flavors. Too many items on the table, too much ceremony… Keep it to the basics: true taste, true texture, true color.”
“The right technique. The right cooking time. The right seasoning. Being right comes gradually, from great discipline and lots of practice. Maybe that’s what the artists are all after. For a cook, at any rate, it’s a constant obsession.”
“Sharing is enriching. Don't keep anything just for yourself. The time for secret recipes and personal tricks has been over for a long time. I share everything I know and I expect everyone in my team to do the same.”
Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.
At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.
The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.
The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.
Praying inside a Dutch mosque.
Broken trust in Islamic community
Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.
All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.
Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.
It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.
"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.
Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.
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