PARIS • Can the new chefs tower over the previous one? Legendary Eiffel Tower restaurant Jules Verne reopened over the weekend after a titanic battle that saw two top chefs prise it away from culinary star Alain Ducasse, who had run the eatery for the past decade.
Ducasse was evicted by the Eiffel Tower's operator last year to make room for chefs Frederic Anton and Thierry Marx, whose consortium won the right to take over the management of the Jules Verne and the other food outlets in the monument, which include snack counters and a brasserie on the first level.
The transition for the Jules Verne proved a bitter one. Ducasse was especially stung by the operator's opinion that the new chefs offer a "strong leap in terms of quality".
Suggesting his chosen successors were not up to the task, Ducasse launched - and lost - a lawsuit to keep control of the famed eatery-with-a-view, which has fed presidents, celebrities and an endless line of well-heeled tourists and locals.
That means that, from last Saturday, diners willing to fork out for set menus ranging from €105 (S$160) to €230 a person, excluding drinks, will find a new culinary experience awaits under new management.
Anton, 54, told reporters days ahead of the reopening that the new-look restaurant and menu have definitively turned the page on the Ducasse era.
"There's not any trace of anyone else here. We started afresh. It's our spirit here," he told reporters as he showed off dishes featuring crab, langoustine ravioli or smoked aubergine.
He said he had been so busy he "didn't have time to think" about the criticism.
The Jules Verne sits on the second level of the Eiffel Tower, 125m above Paris. Its pared-back new interior, designed by Lebanese architect Aline Asmar d'Amman, offers panoramic views of the City of Light.
Customers are advised that the dress code is smart casual. Shorts and flip-flops are not allowed.
Some of the most famous recent diners there include presidents Emmanuel Macron of France and Donald Trump of the United States, who ate there with their wives in July 2017.
Anton said he would be heavily involved in the cooking and management of the Jules Verne, with daily trips planned between the Eiffel Tower and his other restaurant in Paris, the three-star Le Pre Catalan.
And he could not resist a little dig at Ducasse, who is now rarely seen in the kitchen as he concentrates on running a global food empire that spans multiple restaurants and corporate ventures.
Ducasse has a restaurant that is reportedly set to open in the Raffles Hotel in Singapore this year.
"I'm not in a rush to have 50 restaurants around the world," Anton said.
While he will run the Jules Verne, Marx is expected to breathe new life into the first-floor brasserie restaurant along with their corporate partner, French multinational food services group Sodexo.
"I want the Jules Verne to become a gastronomic destination before being considered a tourist destination," Anton added.