The Pavyllon chef spoke to the Journal du Dimanche about his struggle since Antoine’s death in May.
Alongside Antoine’s mother, Isabelle, and his second son, Thomas, chef Yannick Alléno gave a lengthy interview to the Journal du Dimanche (JDD), published on Saturday 17 September.
In the interview, he talks about the terrible tragedy that befell his family on 8 May: his son Antoine died after being run into by a hit-and-run driver while parked at a red light on his moped. He was only 24 years old.
The police were already acquainted with the driver. He was charged with aggravated manslaughter and grievous bodily harm and remanded in custody. Four months after the death of his son, the Pavyllon chef will officially launch the Antoine Alléno charity on Tuesday. The aim is to help the relatives of young victims of violence.
Support for families through the procedures
The chef recounted the terrible night he and his family went through: “aside from the obvious shock of losing our son, we underwent a dehumanising experience that was hard to bear. That’s despite all the support we have been very fortunate to receive. Looking back, we wondered how such a thing was possible in a country like France. And what we could do to spare others what we experienced.”
“The night it happened, we arrived at the Hôtel-Dieu hospital in Paris. A dingy room, with a broken chair. We were handed a piece of paper, with the contact details of someone if we needed psychological support. And that was it. Not even a glass of water. At 3am, the three of us went our separate ways. The next day you want to see your child. It happens in the Institut Médico-légal (forensics institute), a horrible building behind Gare de Lyon station. You get to see your child through a piece of glass.”
Yannick Alléno hopes that, through the charity, he can help families and support them, even with the administrative procedures: “It’s not a big deal, but I got a bill for 19 euros: the night-time rate for taking us to the hospital by ambulance! (…) Antoine’s body was returned to us within thirty-six hours. Some families had to wait three weeks. That’s just not right,” he continues.
“When Antoine died, some families contacted us through social media (…) There is nothing worse than the death of a child, and you have to deal with it on your own. The aim of the charity is to offer families moral, psychological and financial support,” adds Isabelle, Antoine’s mother.
The charity raises funds so that it does not have to rely on State funding, “to remain free”. Several events have taken place, with fundraising dinners organised by big names in the world of cuisine, such as Hélène Darroze or Christophe Bacquié, and a charity dinner organised in Monaco for wine lovers.
“Someone killed our child”
During the interview, the JDD also asked Antoine’s parents and brother about the legal proceedings against the hit-and-run driver. “I refuse to think about him, or to say his name,” says Isabelle. “We got a life sentence. Now we have to live with it and turn it around,” adds Thomas.
Chef Alléno, wants to “put [his] energy into something positive so that no one has to go through what [they] did. “But,” he adds: “I’m not sure I want to think of what happened on 8 May as an accident. For me, it is a crime. Someone killed our child.”
The person responsible is still in custody. Pending the trial and the charity’s official launch, Antoine Alléno’s family is also concentrating on a great project, born during the first lockdown: the Burger Père & Fils restaurant, in Paris, which Antoine created with his father and had taken over.
A commemorative plaque is to be unveiled in Beaupassage, in the seventh arrondissement, on Tuesday. “A memorial in his honour, which all the children who die in such tragic circumstances should have,” says Yannick Alléno.
After the tragedy, the kitchen staff “stuck together,” says Thomas. “Not one of them left.” Anissa, Antoine’s second-in-command and a passenger on the moped, who was injured in the collision, became the chef. “She said: ‘Give me the torch, I’ll carry it’ “, Yannick Alléno explains.
The chef, Isabelle and Thomas ended the interview with a few words about their son and brother. “Antoine wanted to prove that he belonged in the business. One summer he did an internship that went very badly. (…) He stuck to it, he saw it through,” says his mother.
“He was very proud of our name but never used it as a free pass. On the contrary, he wanted to exist and be recognised on his own merits. He always gave of himself. (…) Antoine was a good guy, he was hard-working and generous: on the evening of the tragedy, he was there because he was taking his second in command Anissa home. Just like every evening after the service, even if it wasn’t on his way and it added to his journey”, adds Thomas.
“He was really generous. If one of the dishwashers needed 200 euros, he would take it out of his own money “, adds his father.