Ask any 8-year-old nowadays, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and they might say “doctor, YouTuber, singer, dolphin trainer or athlete” amongst other things. However, we doubt many would say “chef.” Yet, at the age of 8, Yannick Alléno knew that he wanted to become a chef, but maybe he didn’t know that he was destined to become one of the greatest in the world. We’re going to explain how Yannick Alléno started his life in the kitchen, how he became a pioneer of modern French cuisine and three pieces of his top career advice.
1. From the Family Bistro to France’s Best
Alléno’s connection with the kitchen runs deep. As a youngster, he was surrounded by the rich French food culture because of the bistros his family ran in their native Paris. This constant interaction with the culinary world meant that Alléno didn’t even contemplate the idea of becoming anything other than a chef:
"It was something very normal to become a chef, I don’t think about something else."
The Alléno family’s talent and passion for cooking is something that runs in their blood. Alléno says that the best dish he’s ever had “...could be the chicken in the bottle of my grandma.” This is an outstanding compliment to his grandmother’s cooking. Alléno has tasted the finest ingredients, prepared by the best chefs, in the world’s best restaurants. But, as we all know, there's nothing like a home-cooked meal.
The experience and knowledge that Alléno acquired while working at his family’s bistros was crucial in kickstarting his successful career. At the age of 15, he landed his first job at the Le Royal Monceau in the world-famous Raffles hotel under Gabriel Biscay. He then moved on to train under some of the country’s brightest and most legendary chefs including Roland Durand at Sofitel Porte de Sèvres, and Louis Grondard at the historic restaurant, Drouant.
In the following years, Alléno honed his skills and began to gain national and international recognition. He received his first Michelin star in 1999, his second in 2002, and his third in 2007. His desire to push creative boundaries, explore the unknown, and experiment with unique ingredients is inspiring. This daring and innovative attitude serves as a great example to everyone in hospitality and reminds us never to be afraid to think outside of the box.
2. A Star-Studded Career Centered Around Sauce
If there was ever a chef that epitomized modern French cuisine, it’s Yannick Alléno. He has used his creativity to bridge the gap between the old and new ways of cooking. He describes his food as “totally French” and is fiercely proud of his roots.
On the back of his success in various restaurants, Alléno established his own company, Group Yannick Alléno, in 2008. He currently oversees +15 restaurants in stylish destinations such as Saint-Tropez, Marrakesh, Beijing, Seoul, Taipei, and Dubai.
Within the culinary world, Alléno is renowned for his revolutionary work with sauces. He looks at sauces as being the centerpiece of all meals. He even wrote a book about the history of sauces in 2014, entitled “Sauces, réflexions d'un cuisinier” (Sauces: Reflexions of a Chef.) He told us that:
"...modern French means we work around a new vision of sauces because sauces is really the verb of the French cuisine."
His love for sauces has allowed him to develop a ground-breaking technique known as Extraction. It involves cooking ingredients at a temperature that draws out and preserves the purest flavors. After that, these intense flavors are reduced via a process called cryoconcentration; this is the reduction of liquid without heat. It’s a very complex and scientific procedure, however, the final products are unlike any sauce you’ve ever tasted.
In recent years, Alléno has made his way into an ultra-elite group of the world’s best chefs after being awarded three Michelin stars at two different restaurants. In 2014, he took the lead at the famous Pavillon Ledoyen in Paris and opened his restaurant Alléno Paris. Within just seven months, the restaurant gained three Michelin stars! Likewise, in 2017, his restaurant Le 1947 at the luxurious ski resort in Courchevel, France got its third Michelin star.
3. Yannick Alléno’s Appetizing Advice
It’s no secret that the global job market has become much more competitive and ruthless in recent times. Despite facing a lot of competition on the way to the very top of his profession, Alléno is not motivated by rivalry and sees it as a negative thing. When asked who is his main rival, Alléno says:
"I hate that word because I prefer to live with good relationships. It’s a competition for sure but the rivalry has to be very clean."
We applaud this approach as the kitchen is infamous for being an unrelenting place, however, Alléno advocates for positive competition. This attitude allows individuals to develop in a more progressive working environment.
Working as a team allows people to create amazing things which is vital in the kitchen. A single chef can’t turn out a perfect starter, a mouthwatering main meal, and light as a feather dessert. Alléno reinforces this when he says:
"The creativity is not something you can do alone."
We’ve saved Alléno’s best piece of advice for last. After working alongside so many legendary chefs, the thing that he has appreciated the most was something that the “god of the cuisine,” the late, great Joël Robuchon told him:
"...Joël Robuchon told me that the main thing in the kitchen is the detail you will accumulate and the customer can’t see but he can feel."
We interpret this as the time invested in the behind-the-scenes details. The effort that is put into handling, preparing, and testing each element in the kitchen to make sure everything performs flawlessly.
Yannick Alléno’s dedication to his profession and his genius creativity is something that we can all take inspiration from. He turned his passion into a lifelong profession and helped to transform modern French cuisine.
Ready to see more interviews from season 1? Watch 3-Michelin Star Chef, Anne-Sophie Pic here, Accor Co-founder, Paul Dubrule here, and Room Mate Hotels President and Founder, Kike Sarasola here. Stay tuned for more episodes!