A Parisian icon, Pavillon Ledoyen’s listed 45-cover dining room overlooks pretty bucolic gardens on the Champs Elysées and the Art Nouveau Grand Palais coiffed by its impressive glass roof. It’s here that Napoleon dined with Josephine, while Maupassant, Zola, Flaubert and Coco Chanel were regulars, and today the 18th-century establishment still draws a VIP crowd of demanding diners.
After Christian Lesquer, super-chef Yannick Alléno took over and has helmed Ledoyen’s kitchens for two years. “This restaurant is the perfect setting for modern cuisine, it was after all where modern sauces were first developed,” says Alléno, whose trademark is precisely his reduction sauces.
One of France’s most talented and innovative chefs, Alléno was recently awarded three Michelin stars – twice. He was rewarded for his cooking at Pavillon Ledoyen as well as the mountaintop 1947 restaurant at Hôtel Cheval Blanc in Courchevel, France.
At lunch Alléno proposes the surprise ‘Le Principal’ and explains, “Once they have chosen their main ingredient of vegetables, fish, meat or game, we construct the rest of each guest's meal.”
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At dinner, the 9-course tasting menu changes frequently. From the cellars (containing 20,000 bottles), head sommelier Vincent Javaux suggests the perfect wines to match the menu. Eclectic cheeses are from Gilles Clayeux Fromagerie and desserts by patissier Aurélien Rivoire including in-mouth exploding orange pearls with a touch of cinnamon and arlette spuma. And let’s not forget the signature Guinness and white chocolate tart served with coffee or herb infusions.
Born in Puteaux, just outside Paris, Alléno’s connection to cooking runs deep. “I've always been fascinated with the city's gastronomic history, from dishes for royal and presidential tables to cuisine bourgeoise. (everyday food). Inspired to cook by his grandmother and his parents who owned bistros outside Paris, Alléno learned his craft from top chefs such as Manuel Martinez, Gabriel Biscay, Roland Durand, Martial Henguehard and Louis Grondard.
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French cuisine was born in Ile de France and the surrounding villages using local products,” he says. When the first restaurants opened after the French Revolution, chefs used produce from the countryside close to Paris. “It's time to get back to the future!” he declares.
Alléno, who is renowned for spending millions of euros’ worth of French produce annually, admits that finding, say, the perfect mushroom brings tears to his eyes. His perfect mushrooms are grown by Monsieur Spinelli in Saint-Ouen L'Aumone, vegetables come from Jean Berrurier's Neuville-sur-Oise market garden, mint from Milly-le-Foret and honey from Olivier Darné’s beehives in Saint-Denis, all in the Paris region of Ile-de-France.
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The results of the chef’s lovingly researched recipes are recorded in Terroir Parisien coffee table tomes and there’s YAM (Yannick Alléno Magazine), his glossy journal showcasing his favourite chefs and products.
Alléno, with 18 addresses worldwide, dedicates his life to his passion: producing French cuisine sourced with seasonal locavore products. Each dish is a veritable surprise of awesome technicality and art, and is utterly different to anything anywhere else.
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