Three Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alleno brings S.T.A.Y. to the Shangri-la Hotel Beijing. The Dubai version pared down the dining experience to simple, good food with a local twist. The Beijing iteration of S.T.A.Y. promises more of the same--including a pastry "library" (his first job was as a pastry chef) and a communal table. Alleno talks to CW about his restaurant, newly opened for business.
How much time have you spent in Beijing? Since May, I’ve been here nearly every month for about a week.
Have you gotten a chance to eat around Beijing? There was one week where we did four lunch and four dinners, so I could really see what’s going on outside of the hotel.
What were your favorite restaurants? Duck de Chine and Migas.
What does the Beijing dining scene need? I first came to Beijing seven years ago. Things here go very fast, and I’m very excited to be in the F&B environment. I’m coming with a modern approach to food. It won’t be French fine dining; it will be simple. When you live in Paris and you go out to eat, there are always restrictions and frustration—your party is too big or too small, or you’re there too early or too late. I don’t want a restaurant with restrictions. One side of the menu will have signature dishes, and the other side will have more simple dishes—for example, just a simple fish. If you’re the kind of person who goes to gastronomic restaurants a lot, sometimes you just need a simple salad.
How did you celebrate when you got your first Michelin star? What about your second and third stars? I was so proud of it. It was in 1999, and I celebrated with my team and with the people who have always supported me and helped me in my career. When I got my second Michelin star, my friend called me to congratulate me, and I couldn’t believe it. The restaurant I was working at then wasn’t so sexy, and it was in competition with the very big hotels in Paris. It was an underground restaurant—not very sexy, a good place for the nocturnal crowd. Then I got the congratulations letter from [chef] Paul Bocuse. In 2007, I was awarded three Michelin stars, and this third star was my dream. It was the result of 22 years of work, passion and desire to be accurate and demanding in each moment. It also marked the beginning of a new life. This third star was a tremendous responsibility, and it was up to me to make it shine. We had a very big party to celebrate. We have some photos, but they’re secret.
Do you hope the opening of STAY will attract the Michelin guide to finally come to China? I don’t know if S.T.A.Y. will bring Michelin to mainland China, but what the opening of my restaurant shows is the global internationalization of the city and the interest of the Chinese people in French cuisine. My cuisine will learn from China, which is so rich in culinary traditions and products. I’m very impressed by the diversity and the quality of the Chinese terroir, and I believe China could be a great inspiration.
How will S.T.A.Y. be different from Blu Lobster? Blu Lobster—maybe it was a scary place to come in, especially for Chinese guests. Here, we’ll have lazy susans at the tables, and specially designed chopsticks. Guests will see this as soon as they come in, and it will give them freedom. We’re keeping the high-end service, but it will be friendlier, more like family. The price will be the same—we want people to still be able to enjoy the restaurant.
Will S.T.A.Y. in Beijing differ much from the one in Dubai? Yes and no. Yes, because the concept in its philosophy is the exact same: a restaurant which gets rid of the all the gastronomic restrictions in order to offer great food in a trendy and cozy environment. Aside from that, all the S.T.A.Y. restaurant include a pastry library and a communal table. They all mix simplicity and modernity to create a casual and friendly atmosphere where guests share a unique culinary experience. No, because all the dishes of the menus in my restaurants are created especially for a particular place; each time, I want to use local products. I like to taste, to meet with the producers, to discover a wide variety of flavors, spices, herbs.
A pastry library will be a defining feature at S.T.A.Y.—what was your favorite French pastry when you were child? What about now? When I was young, I really liked the Paris-Brest. Now I am very greedy, and I love all the pastries. Actually, my first job was making pastries.
Michelin ratings take into account ingredient sourcing. What are you doing to source the best quality ingredients here in Beijing? I really want to highlight “Chinese terroir” in my menu. I will adapt my creativity to the Chinese market to offer signature dishes. I have worked hard to find the best producers, the best products and flavors of each product. I have tasted, cooked again and again to find the perfect match and recipe. I want to play with Chinese products. For instance, the pigeon used in the 'pigeon cooked in a casserole with salad' is from Beijing or Tianjin. I hope we can push people to make better products. In that spirit, it’s important to find the best of the country. But the taste of the food is still French. The strength of French chefs is the power to analyze products and how they can be cooked.
Can you tell us about the wine list? At the communal table, only magnums will be served to pair with the tailor-made menu. It’s a table for eight (check), so it’s better for the environment to open bigger bottles. These bottles are also good for giving face, and the wine tastes better, too. The wine list will be organized by “cepages,” by grapes, which usually helps the consumer to find the right wine. A typical French wine list, organized by chateau, can make people feel afraid.
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