Debonair’s resident epicurean dines al fresco at Galvin Dubai
The French chef whose innovative cuisine has been raking in the Michelin stars firmly believes a man who cooks at home should win brownie points
Eduan R. Maggo
Chef-patron Yannick Alléno returns to his restaurant Stay at the One&Only The Palm, Dubai this month, where he’ll be hosting his Legend Dinner on May 7 and May 8.
Debonair steps into the kitchen with celebrated chef.
What’s your earliest food memory? I’ve somehow always been surrounded by food… My parents used to run small bistros in the Parisian suburbs and my grandmother was a genius cook as well. We were quite modest but food, even in its simplest way, has always been very tasteful.
How did you enter the industry? My family passed on its passion for food to me; as far as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a chef. So, at the age of 15, I started to work in the kitchen. Funny story is my father wanted to check if I really was made for this job, so he asked his MOF (Meilleur Ouvrier de France or the Best Craftsman of France) friend Gabriel Biscay to find me an internship, which he did at Le Relais Louis XIII with Manuel Martinez. Gabriel also told my father: “If he persists, you can shelve your doubts.” I persisted!
Professional kitchens are renowned as stressful environments. How do you handle the pressure? Being prepared is the best way to release pressure; when everyone knows what he or she needs to do, it leaves less room for the unexpected. Work and anticipation are keys to safeguard you from problems. Of course, there always will be some imponderables; in that case I try to stay calm and to remain positive — with work and perseverance you always find solutions.
How often do you cook outside the workplace? Always. I mean, I love to cook and I cook for my family, for my friends… I cook all the time; it’s my passion. I guess I’m completely addicted.
What’s the best restaurant you’ve eaten at and what made it memorable? I feel very lucky, because I eat in great restaurants quite often. And the best experiences for me are when I’m discovering new tastes, when chefs offer new experiences. But if I had to choose, it would be Jamin, the former three-star restaurant of Joël Robuchon. I ate his soupe chaude de foie gras à la gelée de poule (hot foie gras soup with poultry aspic); it was a very long time ago as it closed more than 20 years ago, but the memory I have of this dish is so powerful… it is the magic of cuisine!
Conversely, what would you never eat again? Well, I’m not a big fan of industrial food and I am deeply attached to good, tasteful products that are grown locally. So I would rather eat somewhere where it’s simple but fresh. The only thing I cannot eat is eggplant; I’m actually totally allergic.
Does a man who cooks win brownie points at home? Indeed! Food is all about sharing and pleasure; if you spent time to prepare something enjoyable to share, if you really put your soul in it, how could you not score?
What’s your top life hack for the layman in the kitchen? The key is your taste. You need to trust yourself: if you don’t like something, how could it be good? Similarly, if you cook with your personal feeling and taste what you’re doing at every step you can’t really go wrong.
What’s your one indispensable kitchen implement? For a chef there is nothing like a sharp knife and quality pans — it’s essential. I love the pans we use in our restaurants; they are from Mauviel 1830, a manufacture that still works in the pure French craft tradition handed down from generation to generation. They really are exceptional tools and it’s a pleasure to work with them.
“I don’t really like following trends. I’d rather initiate and create new things.”
What new trends are you seeing, and how do you respond to them? I don’t really like following trends. I’d rather initiate and create new things. However, the culinary industry seems to be adopting a more responsible approach, and I think it really is a good thing. That’s what we’ve been doing through the philosophy and reflection around modern cuisine — keeping in mind the importance of respecting the product, the environment, and of consuming locally.
Also, generosity in a plate seems to come back as a good thing; it has always been for me but and I think we can see that in our work around sauces it is essential. It’s the pillar of French and generous cuisine, and we reintegrated it in ours, modernising it with the extraction process.
Who would you invite to your ideal dinner table? A dream table, if it were possible, would be with Alain Chapel, Jean Delaveyne and Paul Bocuse — three of the best French chefs. I’ve always admired them, and I miss Paul so much. He has helped me and encouraged me many times since our meeting at the Bocuse d’Or in 1999.
If you could choose your final meal, what would it be? I don’t know; I guess I’m having too much fun to think about the end…
But it would probably be a big party with my family and a lot of friends. Not something complicated — we would eat something good and above all generous and convivial; the important thing is sharing a great moment with your entourage. And there would be great wines for sure. I’m crazy about wine.
Debonair’s resident epicurean dines at Masti Dubai, where bold flavours from around the world take on Indian avatars in a stylishly different venue