Meet chef Yannick Alléno, the culinary maestro behind the restaurants at One&Only The Palm
He’s been awarded six Michelin stars in his career, and under his expert eye, each restaurant at One&Only The Palm is a unique experience. But who is French chef Yannick Alléno and what’s behind his cuisine or his crusade to bring a sort of renaissance to classic French cuisine.
Join us as we talk to him about his portfolio of acclaimed international restaurants and his reputation for food creations that are memorable to the last bite.
Meet chef Yannick Alléno
GLH: Hello Yannick. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us; It’s a true honor. So, our first question is this: Where does your passion for cooking come from?
Chef Yannick Alléno: I think the kitchen fairy waved a wand over my cradle when I was a child because I always knew what I wanted to do and what I wanted to become growing up. I didn’t know I was going to become a renowned French chef, but I knew I wanted to cook for sure.
GLH: And your parents introduced you to cooking very young. Did this influence you?
Chef Yannick Alléno: I think all parents have an impact on their children’s careers. In my case, my father let me go to work very young, at age 15. He had the courage to let me take an apprenticeship and he welcomed my choices. My cousin, Jean-Marc, who sometimes looked after me, was a cook in Lozère at the time and he used to take me into the kitchen with him, and I loved to sit and watch him. I loved this world of culinary effervescence!
GLH: Do you remember the first dish you made that you thought was great?
Chef Yannick Alléno: I remember an omelet I made for my father that was a total disaster!
I think cooking is a bit like playing the violin; You have to practise a lot before you get something good. I missed so many dishes in my life and I didn’t feel like a real chef until I was 40.
I worked hard and practised a lot, which then allowed me to reach where I am today. Nevertheless, I have always been passionate about cooking, and I have to say, life has been good to me.
GLH: There is always a moment when training and practicing becomes creating. What was that trigger moment for you?
Chef Yannick Alléno: Today, it’s the nature of the product I have that inspires my creations. I taste a product, I try to apply the best heat treatment to it and from there the product will tell me what it needs. It’s quite amazing but it takes time to develop that sensitivity.
GLH: In practice, how does the creation of a new dish work?
Chef Yannick Alléno: The product you have is the essence of the creation that will follow. I have a very classical training so I was taught that the essence of a dish is its sauce. Sauces are like the verbs of French cuisine, the only thing you have so many ways to compose, past, present and future.
I want to restore sauces to their rightful place in French cuisine. Today, I refuse that a simple tomato is accompanied by a simple vinaigrette. So I create my own sauces to preserve my products, and I use cold reduction to preserve all their flavors. Once I have my products, I am like a perfumer and I adjust and sauce each of my ingredients differently to unlock their full potential. This is not a revolution, but a strong evolution, one more page in the Escoffier guide.
GLH: Is there any creation you’re particularly proud of?
Chef Yannick Alléno: Preserving fruits without sugar. It allowed me to preserve all kinds of products and their minerality, efficiency and sweetness without the usual mouthful of sugar that comes with it. It took us three years to develop the technique, but reworking a base like this also allowed us to renew a whole range of dishes, for example the orangette and the panettone.
I think I’m going to spend the rest of my life revolutionizing the foundations of cooking for a new culinary future.
GLH: Who are some of the suppliers you work with, and how do you select them?
Chef Yannick Alléno: It’s a lifetime’s work. Suppliers are essential to what you end up creating on a plate. First of all, you want healthy products; we have to stop eating pesticides! I also try to work with local suppliers as much as possible, but I am open to suppliers from all over the world. For example, my soy sauce comes from the best producer in Japan.
GLH: What do you see will become a major culinary trend in the near future?
Chef Yannick Alléno: We had a molecular trend that lasted 10 years. Today, we are having a naturalist trend, and I think we need to let that play out so humans can find their essence. A cuisine of fermentation and barbecue-style cooking, but I also think we will return to a sauce kitchen in the future.
GLH: Can you tell us a bit more about how you joined One&Only The Palm?
Chef Yannick Alléno: It’s a story about fateful meetings! I met Olivier Louis at Le Meurice, who is the Managing Director of One&Only The Palm and One&Only Royal Mirage, and he explained to me that he wanted to open a small resort in Dubai. That was a new concept at the time since Dubai was mostly high-rise buildings. He explained to me that he wanted to bring French cuisine to the UAE. Dubai being a world hub, you come across so many cultures and different types of cuisine. And I really enjoy working with Oliver Louis. He is a remarkable person with great mental gymnastics, I learnt a lot from him and I am particularly fond of One&Only The Palm for its air of being a preserved place, like a bubble beyond the reaches of time.
GLH: When One&Only The Palm was opened in 2010, did you have any specific instructions other than bringing true French cuisine to Dubai?
Chef Yannick Alléno: Olivier Louis and I imagined the restaurant with the customer in mind. You have to be able to cater to each customer differently, but also not to close yourself to the outside world. The 101 restaurant came a bit later, like the icing on a cake, and it’s today one of the most popular restaurants in Dubai.
GLH: Where did you find the inspiration for the cuisine of 101?
Chef Yannick Alléno: We created three restaurants and 101 is inspired by the French Riviera. Its cuisine is resolutely French, with an ode to different products and that’s essential to me. In Dubai, all products are imported so we manage to have, for example, Australian and Japanese produce, which is not always possible in France.
We also have a fine dining restaurant, STAY, and the very important Zest, which is an all-day dining venue where a child could have a fantastic hamburger.
The important thing is to pay attention to every detail, and for me, even a sandwich has a great deal of importance. It can be a testament to the quality of the restaurant. I put as much attention in a club sandwich as I do a three-star dish.
I truly think the burger at One&Only The Palm is one of the best in Dubai.
GLH: During our stay at One&Only The Palm, we met the chef at STAY. He had great things to say about you. How do you work with them to create the dishes the restaurants serve?
Chef Yannick Alléno: The most important thing is the freedom each chef has. I’m there as a tutor to try and push my executive chefs in the right direction, and to give them advice and help, but I strongly believe that the era of “yes chef” is gone. Today, the ideas of every person in the kitchen count. I encourage the creativity of each of my chefs.
GLH: When travelling to Dubai, do you stay at One&Only The Palm? And do you have a favorite room?
Chef Yannick Alléno: Of course! I stayed there almost three weeks before the opening so I had the opportunity to see many rooms. The latest one is 909, facing the beach, but all the rooms are extremely comfortable and luxurious, but above all else, very instinctive…something I appreciate very much especially after a long trip.
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