The star chef behind Adour and Benoit in New York City returns to Biarritz, where he got his start. Dani Shapiro checks in.
Courtesy of Alain Ducasse Alain Ducasse and his wife, Gwénaëlle, at the Hôtel du Palais, in Biarritz.
| Credit: Courtesy of Alain Ducasse

“I earned my first 50 francs at the Hôtel du Palais, in Biarritz. It was 1975—I was 18 years old and worked in the kitchen; I was in school and needed a job on the side. I never could have imagined that I would end up, some 33 years later, getting married here. There is a harmony between my soul and the Hôtel du Palais. This is where I go to recharge my batteries. By removing the stress of the outside world, it gives me the serenity to create. Biarritz is shielded from tourists—it still isn’t overly populated. It’s the opposite of St.-Tropez. Everyone is treated respectfully and is integrated into the very fabric of the place. For the local people, living here is like having a love affair.

I adore the old-fashioned side of the Hôtel du Palais, its Second Empire architecture. The building was Napoléon the Third’s summer palace, and was transformed into a hotel at the end of the 19th century. It’s situated right on a cliff jutting out over the Atlantic. The ambience at the hotel is always perfect, whether in a crashing storm or in sunlight. The décor has remained virtually identical for the past 50 years. But what is authentic and untouched is now in style.”

Dani Shapiro’s novel Black & White comes out in paperback this month from Bantam Dell.

“A good traditional restaurant is Casa Cámara, in nearby Pasai Donibane, Spain. Order the lobster, caught daily in the Bay of Biscay.”

“The Pâtisserie Miremont is exactly how it was in 1872. Waitresses are very unpleasant—which is just as it should be.”

Bookstore has literature and architecture books that really help one understand the region.”