Destinations | Perfect Weekend

Yannick Alléno’s Paris

Head chef of Hotel Le Meurice in Paris since 2003, Yannick Alléno – also known in the media as ‘le prince des palais’ – was awarded his third Michelin star in 2007.

July 11 2010
Helen Chislett

“I live alone in an apartment in the Opéra district of Paris, a short walk from Le Meurice. My job means long hours, so at weekends it is a joy to wake up at about 9am, have a simple breakfast of cereal and coffee and then go jogging. I love this city – it’s spectacular at any time of year – so I may take a route around the Tuileries or along the Seine.

After that, I visit the food market in Rue des Martyrs and buy food to cook that night. At weekends I take care to spend time with my friends. It is a pleasure to cook for them, and they in turn always bring plenty of good wine. When I cook for myself, I keep things simple. Lunch is usually omelette and salad. People think omelette is easy, but in fact it is one of the hardest things to get perfect. Occasionally, I make a truly amazing one – the Roger Bedaine – which includes lobster, foie gras and truffles and has scrambled eggs spooned inside. Lunch is a time to catch up on the newspapers, most particularly Le Figaro.

My children live with their mother outside Paris, so if I am not seeing them, in the afternoon I like to visit exhibitions and galleries with friends. I love contemporary art, and I particularly enjoy the Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton and the Fondation Cartier – both have fantastic and often unexpected works on show. The Musée d’Art Moderne is also a favourite. I collect art myself and own a drawing by Philippe Pasqua, a statue by Laurence Bonnel [atelier pictured] and a piece of sculpture by Louis Cane inspired by the old-fashioned flypaper you used to find in old country kitchens. I like quite grotesque images, such as the human skulls that Philippe Pasqua covers with fantastically iridescent real butterflies.

Back at my apartment I begin cooking – nothing complicated, perhaps a roast suckling pig or a fine piece of beef. I am always on the telephone while I cook, catching up with various friends. There are usually about 10 of us for dinner.

My guests arrive for an apéritif about 9pm and there is a lot of talk and laughter. We don’t keep very late hours – I am usually in bed by 1am.

Sunday is my day for a real lie-in – I tend not to wake up until about 11am. I sit in bed and switch on the TV because there is a really good food programme on Sunday mornings hosted by Jean-Luc Petitrenaud called Les Escapades de Petitrenaud. He is an interesting and witty presenter and the programme reflects my own philosophy about food. For two years I have been working with the food critic Jean-Claude Ribaud on “Terroir Parisien”. It’s a cuisine aimed at creating innovative dishes from exceptional ingredients sourced from the Paris Basin: saffron from Le Gâtinais, mint from Milly-La-Fôret and leafy, purple Pontoise cabbage. We even source honey from hives kept on the roof of the Opéra and the Grand Palais – it is the purest honey you can find because pesticides are completely banned in the city of Paris.

I am obsessed with the idea of reawakening old, forgotten Parisian recipes and adapting them to today’s tastes. So, on Sunday morning I like to browse among the bookstalls along the Seine searching for antiquarian cookery books. The Holy Grail is L’Heptaméron des Gourmets by Edouard Nignon – an original copy would cost about €30,000.

I like to go out for Sunday lunch with friends, either to La Terrasse at the Park Hyatt, which is a wonderful open-air place to eat, or perhaps to Hôtel Costes. Again, I keep it simple – a beef salad with a glass of wine, perhaps. After that, I usually go back home and do some work. In the evening, I stay in on my own and chill out – I have about 2,000 films on DVD, so I can always find something to watch. Supper is cheese and a glass of wine in front of the TV, but more often than not, I fall asleep before the end of whatever it is I’m watching.

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People, Chefs