Yannick Alleno and the pursuit of innovation

Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alleno talks about his passion for innovation and the concept behind STAY at One&Only The Palm

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Over the past 25 years Yannick Alléno has surprised and delighted the world of fine gastronomy with his rigorous creations and vision and is often differentiated by his skill at reinventing traditional dishes, giving them a new interpretation and, surprisingly, no extravagance but with modern inspiration.

From the age of 15, Yannick Alléno spent his life in the kitchen learning from some of the great chefs. It was at Drouant, under Louis Grondard, that his maturity and drive were forged. He consolidated this experience under the auspices of this respected chef, who he admired greatly, before setting off to head the kitchens at the Hotel Scribe. In 1999, his hard work and creativity was rewarded with a first star from the Michelin Guide. This was confirmed in 2002 with a second star.

In 2003, the restaurant ‘Le Meurice’ at Hotel Le Meurice in Paris entrusted him with its menu and Yannick Alléno then created veritable works of art to accompany all seasons. His precision, creativity and respect for ingredients quickly won him special recognition from the Michelin Guide which listed him as one of the most promising chefs of his generation.

In 2007 at this ‘Palace’ he received the ultimate accolade, his third Michelin star and entered the elite circle of the world’s greatest chefs. One year later Alléno was elected as “Chef of the Year” by his peers and in 2009 awarded the highest rating of 5 Toques by Gault Millau. On 1 July 2014, Yannick Alléno took over the culinary direction of the Pavillon Ledoyen, 3 star Michelin restaurant of 45 seats in the heart of Paris on the Champs-Elysées. He inspires the place with his creative energy and is now part of the long line of those restaurant owners that have followed one another in this famed mansion for generations.

With the aim of offering his skills to hoteliers and food professionals alike, both in France and internationally, Yannick Alléno created Group Yannick Alléno in 2008. From the onset, he left his mark in Courchevel, at ‘Cheval Blanc’, which after only one season was awarded two Michelin stars, taken over the Food and Beverage operations at ‘The Royal Mansour’ in Marrakech with two ‘Grande Table’ (French and Moroccan). In 2010 Alléno collaborated with One&Only The Palm, Dubai to develop three distinct dining concepts; ZEST, 101 Dining Lounge and Bar and STAY by Yannick Alléno. He has also opened another STAY in Shangri-la, Beijing and the 101 Tower in Taipei.

How does your national influence affect your cooking style at the start of your career, and now?

Food is a family tradition; my parents used to manage small bistros in the Parisian suburbs and they clearly passed on their passion to me. As far as I can remember I have always wanted to be a chef. I started my training at the age of 15, being taught by the very bests: six Meilleurs Ouvriers de France, namely Manuel Martinez, Jacky Fréon, Gabriel Biscay, Roland Durand, Martial Henguehard, and Louis Grondard. Consequently, classic French cuisine, excellence and rigor have obviously ruled the first 25 years of my career. In 2013, I gathered all the knowledge I have learnt in a book called Ma Cuisine Française (available in English) and since then I feel I have shut the door to that well-known cuisine to start a more modern one. One based on audacity, creation and research. I want to push boundaries to better experience new flavours and exalt tastes. I want new. I want better. I want a modern cuisine that fits our contemporary needs and desires. And that’s how we created the revolutionary technique of ‘Extraction’.

Having worked in all parts of the kitchen at the start of your career, what is the best part about being a chef?

I really love it as a whole. I think it is important to master all the different facets of a job. I have been a chef for many years now but it took me more than 25 years to become a ‘cuisinier’, the French definition of a cook, and that is a major achievement for me.

If you could give your younger self advice, what would it be?

Fortunately, my parents taught me well; hard-working, respect and resilience are key values. I think I would do exactly the same except I would try to win the Bocuse d’Or this time!

What do you think makes our food community unique in Dubai?

Dubai is active, trendy and professional. There are many international chefs and they all bring their own touch and art of living to the gastronomic scene. I love the city: marvelous, surprising, inspiring, and at the very crossroad between Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. It’s one of the best places to work for us as chefs.

Other than your restaurant, what are some of your favorite Dubai food spots?

I love discovering new places, but restaurants like Cova, La Petit Maison, Zuma, Reflets or Ossiano are safe bets.

And now onto the kitchen. What did you hope to bring to the culinary table at your restaurant?

At STAY we hope to bring a modern vision of a fine-dining restaurant; one that offers a true French and modern culinary treat based on great food, creativity and generosity. Our focus is, as always, the taste. Our challenge is to deliver an affordable, refined, and sharp cuisine through a wide selection of iconic or modern French dishes in order to please a demanding international clientele in a stylish, comfortable environment. And because pastry was my very first passion, our very unique signature is our “pastry library” that opens onto the restaurants. Designed as shop window, it showcases the pastry chef’s creations to take the dessert experience to a higher level.

What are some of your favorite dishes on the menu ?

Every dish we feature at STAY tends to be the modern, sophisticated and creative version of an iconic classic. One of our best sellers is our Black Angus Beef Tenderloin “Café de Paris” with pommes frites and our signature black pepper sauce. But I must admit, I am particularly glad that in Dubai we offer our exclusive Food&Extractions Pairing Menu. This menu is an entirely bespoke concept where tailor-made vegetable and fruit beverages that result from our ‘Extraction’ technique are created to complement each dish.

What do you hope people feel or experience by dining at STAY?

Pleasure, indeed! Pleasure is the essence of our work. The combination of amazing food, impeccable service, comfort, and great company is the best menu you can hope for. We try and provide our guests with the first three.

Do you have any special dishes or drinks we should try?

I would definitely go for Food&Extractions Pairing Menu. It is a taste of our modern cuisine and a revolution: we have replaced the common wine pairing by a juice pairing composed of Extractions to offer a non-alcoholic alternative to the meal. Among other things, you can taste a red mullet fish cooked with Middle East Atlas olive oil paired with an ‘Extraction’ of onion, celeriac, mushrooms, and artichoke. I love it and people seems to do so too!