Born just outside Paris, Yannick Alléno spent his childhood in the kitchen of family-run bistros in all over Paris' suburbs. Before he knew it, the found himself in the kitchen at age 15. What followed was a swift ascension under great tutelage, and shortly after, he was introduced to the prestige of being awarded his first Michelin star in 1999. He currently runs nine restaurants, two of which, Pavillon Ledoyen in Paris and 1947 at the Cheval Blanc, French Alps, hold the distinction of three Michelin stars.
One of the nine restaurants is his newly opened Terroir Parisien, a bistro located within the confines of the new Changning Raffles City mall. We reached out to Yannick Alléno to pick his brain about the bistro, Parisien cuisine, and his preferences.
What is your vision for Terroir Parisien? Tell us more about how you define this restaurant.
Our bistro is a ten-year project based on research about the culinary movement also called “Terroir Parisien”. It is a tribute to the Paris region (Ile-de-France), where I had grown up, where my family’s bistros started, in different parts of the city and in the suburbs. Terroir Parisien takes inspiration from the original suppliers, products, and recipes from Ile-de-France area, with an affordable and down-to-earth menu.
Why did you choose Shanghai as the next destination?
China has always been a country we have had our eyes on. As a chef, it is a real food destination to settle in. In fact, China and France are definitely the two most fruitful culinary cultures in the world; their complexity and creativity are truly amazing and inspiring.
We do have ambitions for the Chinese market, though it is too early to make public our plans. We have never been in any hurry to open our restaurants, STAY modern fine-dining and TERROIR PARISIEN French bistros; our most important focus is to make things right.
What’s are your recommended dishes at Terroir Parisien and why?
The Eggs Frou Frou to start, a typical dish from the Pigalle neighborhood in Paris. For the main, Café de Paris Beef, a comforting dish. The highlight of this dish is its generous, creamy sauce with a strong note of black pepper, an additive that was popularized in the 40s, served in brasseries at the time. Sauce is the verb of French cuisine and represents 80% of the success of a dish to me. For dessert, the Brioche Nanterre, a sweet treat of my youth, made like French toast and served with vanilla ice cream.
What makes Parisian cuisine unique and different from the rest of French cuisine?
French cuisine was born in Paris. The Parisian terroir richness and uniqueness come from its wild variety of products and very specific recipes and specialties. If I had to define a delicious, typical Parisian recipe, I would say it’s the “croque-monsieur”, a grilled-squared sandwich made of sandwich loaf, melting cheese, ham and the famous Bechamel sauce, one of the four mother sauces of French cuisine.
Twice you have won three Michelin stars for your work. How does it feel to be one of the most celebrated chefs in the industry? Does it come with a bit of pressure?
Being rewarded three Michelin stars the first time was already a dream come true, today, receiving three stars twice, is totally incredible. These distinctions stimulate us and encourage us; it pushes us to go further, explore more, but we do not forget either that the most important thing is to satisfy our customers every day and to offer them real moments of gastronomic happiness.
How has French cuisine changed in the past decades? And what can you say about contemporary French versus traditional French cuisine?
It is interesting to put French cuisine back into context to properly understand what has changed in the past decades. Paul Bocuse was the founder of French cuisine and introduced a “new” vision in the 20th century. The 70s pulled this Nouvelle Cuisine back in a very strict sphere with several codes. From the year 2000, new culinary movements fueled by creativity have arisen, some hand in hand with the molecular movement.
Today, we consider that there cannot be a schism between traditional cuisine and creativity anymore: a modern movement that consists of modern and visionary aspirations and the ability to link together the masterful techniques of French cuisine with a creative and ambitious drive, has to emerge. And research work plays a big role in this.
This is exactly what I have been working on for years: creating a modern cuisine based on traditional French cuisine in association with creativity; this is my vision of contemporary French cuisine. My research work on sauces, which I consider as the French cuisine’s DNA, is thus the main focus and new techniques such as Extractions® perfectly translate this new vision of French cuisine: assembling traditional techniques with creativity and innovation to get even more taste.
What is one of the fondest memories you have working as a chef?
I started my career at 15 years old, so you can imagine the amount of memories I can have in mind. Of course, being awarded three stars at the Michelin guide in 2007 was probably the most exhilarating moment in my career.
I also remember I was always very excited when I participated in competitions. In fact, competitions allow us to evolve trough confrontation with one’s pairs, pushing boundaries, endless questioning, and meeting new people. It’s a constructive way to learn respect, curiosity, and humility. I would advise chefs to take risks once in a while in a competition.
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