Yannick Alléno’s name has become synonymous with creativity and innovation in gastronomy. In a career spanning four decades, he has continually strived to identify the essence of classic French cuisine, and make it thoroughly modern. His experimental recipes have taken him all over the world, with a portfolio of restaurants from Asia to the Middle East. But it is in his home country of France that Alléno continues to impress and influence his peers around the globe, and confirm his place as one of the best chefs in the world.
Born in Puteaux, on the outskirts of Paris, from the age of 15 Alléno began learning from some of the best chefs in France. He credits the likes of Manuel Martinez, Jacky Fréon, Gabriel Biscay, Louis Grondard, Martial Enguehard and Roland Durand with providing his solid culinary education. But it was Alléno’s relentless curiosity about the possibilities of traditional French food that drove him to become one of France’s most celebrated chefs.
That curiosity manifested itself in a fiercely competitive spirit, which saw Alléno succeed in a host of cooking contests, including first prize in the Auguste Escoffier competition, and silver in the prestigious Bocuse d’Or in 1999. His bold and often audacious approach won him the head chef role at Scribe, and two Michelin stars. In 2003 he took the helm at Le Meurice, and in four short years he had won three Michelin stars. By the time he took over at Alléno Paris at the Pavillon Ledoyen, expectations were stratospherically high, but he won another three Michelin stars there in just 7 months. And more recently, his Le 1947 restaurant at the Cheval Blanc Hotel in Courcheval in the French Alps won its third Michelin star in 2017.
Alléno’s preoccupation with classic French sauces forms the basis for much of his work. He has called sauce ‘the verb of French cuisine’, and has sought to fully understand its place in cuisine as the one single component that can unite other, often diverse, flavours in harmony. For him, this is what differentiates ‘cuisine’ from ‘food’, and many of his recipes hold true to this philosophy. His dishes are frequently a reflection on terroir and the integrity of simple ingredients, but their execution with rich sauces and subtle flavours elevate them to a culinary art form.
While Alléno prefers not to think in terms of signature dishes, his constantly evolving menus all bear his hallmarks of invention and innovation. One of his most remarkable dishes at Alléno Paris is the celeriac and 18-month avocado millefeuille with coconut extraction and chia seeds. His milk-fed lamb from the Pyrénées with quince pie, purslane salad and nettle oil is another typical expression of diverse flavours brought into harmony. Equally impressive is his Fattened Chicken from Tauzin Farm dish, which features a poached breast in a corn extraction sauce with cime de rapa, and comes with a soft stuffed bun with ginger and black truffle dressing, and celeriac porridge and egg preserved in slaked lime with mustard.
Alléno’s unique approach makes him the chef other chefs watch, and his YAM bi-monthly cooking magazine is read by his peers on a regular basis. He has also published a number of cookbooks, including Sauces and Terroirs in his Reflections Of A Chef series, which lays down the foundations of a renaissance in French cuisine. A shrewd businessman, he has grown his brand across many countries, and wherever a restaurant bears his name, the plaudits seem to follow. His STAY restaurant in Seoul received its first Michelin star in 2018, and he has outlets in Dubai, Morocco, Taipei and Hong Kong.
Wherever he cooks, Yannick Alléno continues to push the boundaries of French cuisine. His unique creativity means his combination of the classic and the modern frequently yields surprises. But the fact that he remains one of the few chefs that most other chefs look up to is no surprise at all.