Interview: Leader of 'Modern Cuisine' Yannick Alléno

There was only one way the Grande Dame of Monte Carlo could celebrate its reopening after three months of slumber, and that was with a three Michelin star bang. It came in the form of powerhouse chef Yannick Alléno who, on Tuesday 21st July, teamed up with the chefs at Le Vistamar* for a one night only culinary event.
The concept is to provide visitors and residents of Monaco with a new and exciting experience, an exclusive dinner that can be enjoyed in Monte Carlo for one night only. Coinciding with the reopening of the Hermitage Hotel in early July, the evening was part of SBM’s ‘The Art of Gaming’ philosophy and its commitment to offer exclusive, luxurious experiences.
Yannick Alléno has long been a reference for fine dining in the French capital, obtaining his first Michelin star in 1999. He currently holds 10, including the three Michelin starred Alléno in Paris, two Michelin starred sushi restaurant l’Abysse, and one Michelin starred Pavyllon, which has only been open since October 2019.
Nicknamed the “Prince of Palaces” by the press in 2008, Yannick Alléno is a member of an elite circle of the world’s greatest chefs, driven by a passion for creativity and innovation.
After accepting an invitation by Hermitage Hotel General Director Louis Starck to showcase his talents to an audience in Monaco, the French Chef designed a clever eight-course menu celebrating the best of Mediterranean produce, revealed to a select group of local media ahead of the main event. From the courgette flower tartelette with sweet peas and lightly spiced red mullet filet, to the pomponettes of sole and wood-fired suckling lamb, each dish was as light and flavoursome as the last, perfectly capturing a Mediterranean summer’s eve on the terraces of Le Vistamar.
Over a unique cheese and smoked eel souffle, I asked Yannick why he is considered a leader in ‘Modern cuisine’.
“In fact, the only thing you can really talk about in terms of ‘Modern cuisine’ is sauces,” he responded. “Sauces are like the verbs of French cooking.”
It is in the culinary art of making sauces where Yannick Alléno, who had effectively reached the top of his game, became reinvigorated.
“In the end, I was sad to be serving the same food, so I decided to quit and concentrate my time on researching and finding a new way of cooking,” revealed the 51-year-old Frenchman. “I started my career at age 15 and I was always in ‘competition’, I didn’t have time to breath and see what was happening around me, and sometimes you need that.”
No-one in the culinary world has dared rewrite the process of making sauces since Auguste Escoffier, the “king of chefs and the chef of kings”, codified the recipes for the five “mother sauces” at the end of the 19th century.
For a French chef, it seems almost blasphemous to tackle the classics. Yet that is exactly what Yannick Alléno did.
“If you put your hand on a fire for 12 hours, you can understand what happens to the product you treat for sauces. So, I decided to do it differently. I decided to cook elements at the perfect temperature for a certain amount of time. A celeriac, for example, is cooked at 83°Celcius for 12 hours, dover sole is cooked at 64° for four hours. Then I make a chilled reduction, the water crystallises and pushes out the raw materials that we are looking for. After that I blend it with champagne or cognac.”
It is one of the processes of “extraction” that Yannick uses to preserve all of the raw minerals and vitamins of each ingredient, eliminating the need to add salt or sugar. From his laboratory in Paris, the chef has now developed a repertoire of around 500 extractions.
“I have reinvented sauces,” he said. “I have added two more pages to the Escoffier.”
Escoffier: a guide to modern cookery is the “culinary bible” written by Auguste Escoffier in 1903, and still remains a classic reference for professional chefs today.
“So, what is modern cuisine?”, Yannick said, bringing our conversation full circle. “Well now, we no longer want the additions of sugar or salt in our food, but we still want the taste. Extraction gives us this. It is the new gastronomy.”
If that wasn’t enough to make Escoffier roll in his grave, Yannick is also rewriting how to approach another classic – French service.
“Next, we tackle ‘what is modern service?’, we try to retrain the mind to consider what it means to be three stars. But for that,” concluded Yannick, “you will have to read my book in September.”
The question on everybody’s lips now is whether this rockstar of French cuisine will take on Monaco’s only other three Michelin star giant, Alain Ducasse, and open a restaurant in the Principality?
“It’s a sweet dream,” said Yannick, “but I don’t want to fuel any rumours. For now, I am happy with the collaboration this evening with Louis Starck and the Hermitage Hotel.”
Click on the photos in the gallery to enlarge…

Photos by Monaco Life, all rights reserved