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Interview

His year in Monaco, his projects, his fight for his son… a revealing interview with Yannick Alleno

yannick alleno
Yannick Alleno ┬ę Monte-Carlo SBM

The Chef of the Pavyllon Monte-Carlo, at the H├┤tel Hermitage, spoke in particular about the recent news that the driver who ran into Antoine Alleno on May 8th had been released. 

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Two Pavyllons, one dinner. That was the concept of the “Grand Vintage Collection” meal, on 28 February and 2 March in Paris and Monaco respectively. A tailor-made menu, skilfully prepared by the multi-starred Chef Yannick Alleno, in partnership with Beno├«t Gouez, Cellar Master with the prestigious Mo├źt & Chandon.

“The partnership with Mo├źt & Chandon is not a new one, we have been working together for a good ten years. I wanted to understand wine, to understand champagne, and I was interested in all the fabulous Houses in the LVMH group. I met Beno├«t and we instantly got on: we both shared a desire to create something new. (ÔÇŽ) We have worked together on many dinners around the world, but for this one, the idea was to create a journey through time: Beno├«t has the keys to a fantastic cellar, and we are the only ones in France and Monaco to serve these champagnes in magnums, and disgorged late. They are exceptionally fresh, with a special authenticity… The idea was to provide an evolutionary journey over years that might be similar, to see in particular the impact of global warming on champagne. The grapes are under water stress, and you can taste the difference, from one soil to another.”

Beno├«t Gouez and Yannick Alleno – ┬ę Monaco Tribune

These champagnes from 2015, 2006 and 1999 represented a culinary challenge for Yannick Alleno: to create an entire menu that would be a perfect match for the featured vintages. The result was, for example, a roasted John Dory with avocado, with curried white grapes and romaine puffs stuffed with fragrant rice, accompanied by a 2015 pink champagne, “a horse running free in the fields with its mane in the wind,” says the Chef with a smile. “We created a wine experience, a food and wine pairing that we wanted to be surprising. Mo├źt & Chandon makes great champagne wines and having them in magnum format changes everything. These are true gastronomic wines. There is a structure to them.”

It was indeed a flavourful event. In the hushed atmosphere of the Pavyllon, with lounge-style music in the background, a succession of dishes were introduced by the Chef and Benoît Gouez. They pulled off their gamble, with a delicious and surprising menu, featuring for example a sweet and savoury squash raviole, or scallops, sliced raw with a lemon and caviar sour gel, and matching each dish with the appropriate champagne. It was a great success and could be repeated in the future.

One year in Monaco

The exceptional dinner was an opportunity for Yannick Alleno to review the past year with us, since the Monegasque version of the Pavyllon opened its doors last spring. “I am very pleased,” he told us. “I was lucky enough to be able to count on the existing team here. My family has grown: I am so proud of the work they have put in. I think that today we have one of the best front of house and kitchen teams to be found on the French Riviera.”

And it is with family in mind that the Chef has decided to put on a brunch every Sunday: “we are here to satisfy the local clientele, i.e. residents and Monegasques. Pavyllon was created for them. We aim to please, to be a restaurant where you can come several times a month because it’s pleasant, quiet, discreet… I think brunch is one of the most important moments: people need places where they can come with their children or their partner and have brunch,” explains the Chef.

Yannick is one of the chefs who is respectfully shaking up cooking, and moving it forward

Marcel Ravin

The atmosphere is gentle and friendly. Original and gourmet dishes make up the -seasonal – Sunday brunch menu, featuring an excellent selection of pastries (including a delicious honey and saffron brioche), eggs baked with sea urchin and caviar or poached in a lobster sauce, as well as the “GoodWich”, a sandwich of macaroni glazed with smoked scamorza and Italian ham, which the Chef is particularly fond of.

Brunch comes in table service format, as opposed to what is on offer at the Blue Bay from his colleague and friend, Chef Marcel Ravin. “Marcel is an example for a lot of kids, he’s a great guy. We are complementary: his gastronomy is full of all the sunshine he has in his eyes and in his hands. What he does is truly remarkable, it’s unique,” says Yannick Alleno.

The Blue Bay Chef is equally full of praise for his friend: “I’ve known him and followed him for a long time. I really like what he does, and there’s a good reason we are friends today. He is one of the chefs who is respectfully shaking up cooking, and moving it forward. I am delighted that he is here in the Principality, it adds even more substance to the resort.”

Marcel Ravin
Marcel Ravin – ┬ę Monte-Carlo SBM

Fighting for Antoine

As well as the respect and admiration that the two chefs have for each other, they share a bond of deep solidarity and brotherhood, especially since the death of Yannick Alleno’s son, Antoine, who was killed by a drunk driver last May at the age of 24.

“Our profession, and this is quite unique, stood as one when it happened,” recalls Yannick Alleno. “We witnessed the sensitivity of the people who are in this job. It was extremely touching.”

You haven’t heard the last of my son

Yannick Alleno

“We rediscovered a brotherhood, a solidarity, an enthusiasm for the profession,” adds Marcel Ravin. “Of course many people choose this profession because it is their passion, but also because of their sensitivity.”

The tragedy led the Chief of Pavyllon and his relatives to create a charity to help families who have lost a child, from 0 to 25 years old. For Yannick Alleno, the fight has only just begun: “We are not only dealing with violence on the road, we are also fighting, for example, for the creation of the term ‘road homicide’.”

The measure was recently proposed by G├ęrald Darmanin, in light of the Pierre Palmade affair. The Chef hopes that this is not just a publicity stunt: “it’s good that he’s put this forward, but he needs to see it through. Words must be translated into actions. It is both a highly politicised and non-political issue that concerns everyone, from all sides. We need to move legislation forward. We have to protect our children and help relatives as much as possible. I can’t stand hearing people referring to a child’s death as ‘a news item’. This is a national cause!”

And there is something else Yannick Alleno cannot take: the very recent announcement that the man who killed Antoine has been released – under judicial supervision – pending the trial, scheduled for 2024.  “How can this man be free and how could he be free the day he killed my son,” asks the Chef. “It is unbearable. Antoine wasn’t asking for it: he was a kid with his whole future ahead of him. When I saw him on the pavement, I said to myself that he was too precious to me for his death to serve no purpose.”

A commemorative plaque was unveiled in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, in Beaupassage, a pedestrian area dedicated to gastronomy. A tribute to the young man who was destined for a bright future in the restaurant business too.

His name will soon be crossing the Channel, with the opening of a third Pavyllon in London in June, at the Four Seasons, in Park Lane: “It’s a fabulous project,” concludes the Chef. “London is a very tough market, with very good chefs and great products. And we will have a bar, which will be named after Antoine. Believe me: you haven’t heard the last of my son.”