Visionary chef advocating a spontaneous, zero-waste, product-oriented cuisine, Julien Allano was awarded a ‘green star’ in 2020, the Michelin guide’s new sustainable gastronomy icon.
Photo by Alain Maigre
"Every single action of each of us does have an impact somewhere.
Inspire change, don’t force it".
Chef's best practices:
- A “Menu Confiance” based on what Mother Nature has to offer
- Local sourcing, always getting closer to customers and suppliers
- A zero waste cuisine
- Service and kitchen departments together on the same boat
- Total transparency of supply and production methods
Chef Julien Allano has built his experience working in the finest restaurants in the South of France. Named Chef of “La Mirande” in 2007, he held one prestigious Michelin star, and then joined the Palm Beach in Ajaccio (1*). Passionate and generous, Julien then chose Le Clair de la Plume to communicate his values through a seasonal cuisine centered on authenticity. His talent was rewarded with 1 Michelin star in 2015 followed by the Michelin sustainable gastronomy emblem (a green star) in 2020.
A true pioneer, today Chef Julien Allano shares with us his vision on sustainable gastronomy and his best practices.
Welcome Julien to Chefs for Impact!
By Julien Allano as told to Chefs for Impact
I can imagine the impact that the COVID-19 crisis has had on your activity. What actions have you implemented since the lockdown?
"First of all, there was a lot of administrative work to do to protect our 50 employees.
Now, we do weekly snack deliveries to the COVID department of the closest hospital in Montélimar.
I am also currently putting together a hamper filled with quality seasonal and a local selection of products in collaboration with our suppliers. We’ll be selling these baskets to our community alongside tutorials explaining how to cook the products. This initiative will allow us to keep in touch with our customers and to help our producers’ businesses.
Once or twice a week, I host Facebook lives on the theme "Cooking from the pantry’s leftovers".
Awarded with 1 Michelin star in 2015, you got a ‘green star’ for your sustainable commitment in 2020, among 50 restaurants. Congratulations! This award is the fruit of your work and the transmission of your values. Can you tell us more about your best practices?
"Today, more than 90% of our products come from within a radius of less than 100km, the furthest being seafood from the Mediterranean. I only buy fish from small fishermen and only if I know the name of both the fisherman and the boat. This offers me a very wide variety of products, especially on products unknown to the consumer such as capelin or hake. This requires more work but to me it is important to buy products that have been caught but that nobody wants because they aren’t attractive.
Since 2018, we no longer offer an ‘A la Carte’ menu. Our ‘Menu Confiance’ varies according to what Mother nature has to offer. The menu therefore changes very spontaneously, sometimes up to twice a week.
What are the challenges of this approach?
"I don't see any to be honest. It has been liberating to work this way. My cuisine has been freed and it has become even more assertive because I find it richer in meaning now.
This has created even more of a bond with the customers since I introduce myself and my philosophy to each table at the beginning of the meal. The interaction between service and kitchen are more frequent and stronger. The restaurant, in fact, is more convivial.
I cook the product in its entirety to spotlight the zero-waste approach. In the past, to feed 30 guests, we used 10 racks of lamb (aka 5 lambs). Today, with one lamb I serve 30 customers because I value each piece along with its own preparation. My cuisine is now based on technique and discovery and I have a lot more fun! »
This crisis calls for reflection. There is an obvious collective awareness for change. Don't you see this as an opportunity for Chefs to take on an even greater role as educators to help their clients change their consumption habits?
"I am a great believer in the power of social networks. Accessible to all, they allow the mass transmission of values.
Unfortunately, de facto fine-dining restaurants cannot address all consumers. Nevertheless, everyone at his or her own level has to communicate messages, from the bistro to the palace. I do not believe that the consumer has a particular demand; I think that he can show great flexibility by adapting to the offer. This is where restaurants have a role to play as educators.
Chefs have to inspire change while not imposing it, showing for instance the field of possibilities with what product is available at the time. "No cherries in December but excellent clementines? Look what we can do with them. "
How do you imagine the post-pandemic restaurant? Do you plan to make any changes upon reopening?
“In addition to the obvious adaptation relating to the safety of our customers and employees through the reduction of reception capacity, the wearing of gloves and masks and the implementation of a disinfection protocol, we will also be reinventing our offer.
Le Clair de la Plume will now open only 3 days a week and will offer take-away and Private Chef services.
Gourmet restaurants will be less impacted in fact because the distance between tables is more spaced, we use single-use linen and the tables are generally not renewed during the service. The implementation of protocols will be more drastic in bars, bistros and small restaurants. Where I see a real challenge is to combine this necessary aseptization with our values around Nature, the terroir, the taste and authenticity.”
One of the commitments of restaurants upon reopening is to be able to show total transparency on product’s origin and production methods. Will this require a lot of adjustments at Le Clair de la Plume?
"None actually. Since 2018, I provide every single client with the description of the philosophy of my cuisine as well as a list of our producers, distance from the restaurant, etc. We didn’t wait for COVID-19 to happen, these things have already been implemented here. So, we are ready!”
What is tomorrow's gastronomy?
"A local gastronomy that expresses itself through a cuisine that is ever closer to its customers and producers. Tomorrow's gastronomy, I hope it no longer needs a ‘green star’ to be categorized as such».
What are your favorite seasonal ingredients?
"The white asparagus from Domaine de Rozel, in Valaurie and the very first organic gariguette strawberries of the year, from Mr Trombetta in Grillon."
To follow Chef Julien Allano's lives on “Cooking from the pantry leftover” (in French): https://www.facebook.com/leclairdelaplume/