French cuisine is all about the best ingredients prepared in pounds of butter and rivers of cream. So how did Alain Ducasse — a world-renowned, 3-star Michelin chef — put a healthy twist on deliciously rich dishes like lemon caramel custard and French shortcrust pastry-pate brisee?

Ducasse had long-struggled to find dishes that captured the essence of French cooking while still delivering healthy, flavorful meals. He’s compiled those recipes into a new cookbook, “Nature: Simple, Healthy and Good” dedicated to offering healthy options that can be made in any kitchen.

Fresh ingredients have always been key: “Each good product, grown with love and respect, in its distinctive land, has an incomparable flavor. Without which a chef is nothing,” Ducasse writes on his website. For “Nature,” Ducasse paired up with a nutritionist to enhance each recipe with additional tips and nutritional information like how to reduce the amount of oil when making tomato confit, and how to add the confit to a variety of other dishes.

Greatist got a chance to speak with Alain Ducasse about his motivation for writing “Nature” and what “healthy food” means to him.

Q&A with Chef Alain Ducasse

What inspired you to write a book focusing on healthier dishes?

Mediterranean cuisine has always been a source of inspiration for my cuisine — be it on special occasions or daily. In either case, the Mediterranean diet is a very healthy one.

Are you seeing a greater demand for healthier options in your restaurants?

Yes, I’ve seen a trend in guests requesting the lighter options that are available on my menus — everything from fruits [and] vegetables, [to] cereal [grains].

What’s the response to the book been like in the gourmet community?

Enthusiastic. People are happy to [finally] have an accessible book that makes it possible to eat [nutritionally] balanced and delicious recipes every day. It’s a guilt-free indulgence!

What does “healthy” mean to you?

Healthy means natural, easy, and delicious. If food isn’t easy to prepare and delicious to eat, you can’t stick to the diet. If it’s not prepared with good ingredients — i.e. the best products Mother Nature can provide — it’s not healthy. The good news is that natural products are good to eat and good for your health.

How important is choosing to cook at home with family meals instead of going to restaurants every day?

I’ve got nothing against restaurants, [but] eating at home is essential. Eating is not just a biological function, it’s an emotional experience, it’s an intimate ritual — setting the table, preparing the meal, and sharing the moment with those around you.

What’s the one thing you won’t eat (or cook)? And why?

I’ll eat just about anything — and never like to turn down something that has been prepared for me.

Do you have any advice for amateur chefs looking to recreate the dishes in Nature?

Don’t forget the most important ingredient: love.

How do you cook healthy options for yourself? Is Ducasse’s cookbook a game changer or just another one for the shelf? Let us know in the comments below!

Photos by Françoise Nicol