Tradition, excellence, modernity: these three words beautifully encapsulate French chef Yannick Alléno and the Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer. What more natural move could this world-famous restaurateur with three Michelin stars make, in that case, than the Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo’s gastronomic restaurant? To mark the occasion, the renowned Michelin starred restaurant in Monaco is changing its name to become Yannick Alléno à l’Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo. We met him to find out more about his love for beautiful haute cuisine.
Did you know Monaco before you accepted your offer from the Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer Group?
Yannick Alléno: I’d had the chance to go to Monaco a few times, but one memory in particular has really stayed with me: French cuisine legend Paul Bocuse’s 81st birthday in 2007. I was among chefs with extraordinary star ratings. I was chef at Le Meurice in Paris at the time and Mr. Bocuse himself told me I’d won the final one of my three Michelin stars. I remember how surprised I was, and how proud to join the prestigious ranks of the triply-starred restaurateurs at quite a young age. I kept thinking about my family, my parents and my sons. It was very emotional in a beautiful way!
Why did you say yes to Monaco?
Y.A: Monaco has a real fine-dining scene and it’s a varied, diverse city, as well as being an incredibly rewarding place where exceptional cuisine is expected.
Where in Monaco inspires you the most?
Y.A: The terrace at the Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo, as its view of the yachts coming and going is very poetic and inspiring. It’s an exquisite, ever-changing thing to behold. Nothing stays still, it’s fascinating.
Now that you have three Michelin stars and two decades of experience behind you, do you still feel the same pleasure when you set up somewhere new?
Y.A: These big life moments are defined by encounters. In Monaco, the encounters and conversations I had with Jean-Luc Biamonti and Louis Starck were part of the reason why I accepted this new gastronomic challenge. They are both passionate, really empathic people who share my values and vision. I’m finding it such a pleasure to set up here in Monaco.
What are the first things you do when you arrive in a new place?
Y.A: You need to respect the location, its past and its heritage and get a real understanding of it. You also have to meet the teams. They are great professionals and real gastronomic talents, so it’s important to listen to them and talk with them so we can all move forward together with a shared determination.
What is your ambition for fine-dining at Le Vistamar, or “Yannick Alléno à l’Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo” as it is now?
Y.A: I want to make it a vibrant, living space, with a 24/7 “open house” feel for Monaco locals, French people and tourists to delight in visiting and coming back to time after time. The terrace will contribute to that sense of warmth and sharing. A place for simple pleasures and haute cuisine.
is that the kind of gastronomic approach you’re taking here?
Y.A: Yes. Simplicity at its absolute best. We’re lucky enough to have a vegetable garden. We’ll be able to enjoy all the best ingredients from our own home turf. We want our French cuisine to embody lightness and freshness.
This is the first time you’ve worked in the Mediterranean. What flavours and ingredients would you like to work with?
Y.A: The Mediterranean is overflowing with colour and gardens. We will work with gourmet local produce to make ethical, tasty cuisine, our ambition being to win more accolades with a Michelin Green Star. For example, I’m thinking about tomatoes from L’Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo’s own garden…
So is it fair to say that your challenge will be to blend your own signature style with the heritage handed down by your predecessors?
Y.A: This is a place with a strong heritage and I’m very proud to be taking forward the restaurant’s influence and fame into the future with a new vision – Pavyllon’s vision.
Pavyllon is your brand. What does it mean to you?
Y.A: Pavyllon is a contemporary, comfortable place with real atmosphere. It is gastronomy, but without the flummery. In that way, it’s a lot like me, as I was practically born behind a bar myself. My parents ran bistros. Bar counters are really amazing places. I’m making bar counter gastronomy. I hand my diners their plates, we have a conversation over a glass of wine – that’s a real restaurant, real life.
And speaking of wine…
Y.A: I’m a huge wine lover. Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer has one of the world’s finest wine cellars. I’ve been in it! Our cellar master Gennaro Iorio and I are going to create a wine list for oenophiles: something special enough for our clientele to love.
Of all the menus you can imagine, which would be your best?
Y.A: One which uses culinary choices and the way the meal and its different elements are linked together to spark emotions in people. I’m sure you’ve heard that sauce is crucial to me. “If the dish is a sentence, the sauce is the verb,” as we say.
Could you share a gourmand memory with us?
Y.A: Having a glass of wine and some barbajuans with Paul Bocuse and Alain Ducasse in the Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer’s cellars.
What is our most important sense?
Y.A: Taste. That is the sense that lingers in our memory the most.Look, scent, flavours and aromas are all bolstered by the emotions and delight we feel when we’re sampling a dish or a sauce. It’s our Proustian madeleine!
What is your favourite spot in the Principality?
Y.A: The Oceanographic Museum is an amazing place. The Prince has been protecting the oceans’ delicate balance for years. When you go to the museum, you remember how beautiful nature and its equilibrium are. It’s up to each of us to play our part and take responsibility for protecting it.