Meeting the chef Akrame Benallal early in the morning is like drinking a high-vitamin cocktail made with positive energy, creativity and delicacy which gives you the impression that everything is possible. This young chef, trained with Pierre Gagnaire and Ferran Adrià, among others, is overflowing with projects. His eponymous restaurant, on rue Lauriston in Paris, about to be closed for maintenance works, will open again in September “with a new vision of things, where kitchen and service will cohabit to offer a moment out of time”, as he likes to remind it. In order to offer a complete gastronomic experience albeit the reduced space of his restaurant forces him to be ever more creative, and constantly requestion himself to avoid resting on his laurels.
Cook, Akrame is also an entrepreneur, having on his credit the beautiful success of the Ateliers Vivanda in Paris, Hong-Kong and Manilla. A typically French concept where the emphasis is essentially on meat and regional products, with a special attention to the supplying of the products and to the scenery, like the blocks used for the tables.
“I have had a combatant path. I have never let go of anything in life.” he remembers as an introduction. A chef who lives life to its fullest: his dynamism and open-mindedness are definitely visible in the cooking and tricks he shares with Pluris.
An overflowing will to undertake and to bounce off any success or failure to always move forward and build.
Three tips to undertake by Akrame Benallal :
Four years ago, my restaurant in Tours went bankrupt. Today we have six places in Paris, five others around the world and a multitude of ongoing projects. One must always remember that no failure is definitive.
To undertake, whether it is in a restaurant or something else, one must always have some landmarks in mind to avoid losing their way in the process. And the most important of these landmarks is to stay faithful to your values and to a certain ethic. Of course, you can succeed by cheating, by being a bit of a crook or by promising things you are never going to give… But for me, you can only be proud of what you do if you do it with certain values.
The second point is to be proud of your heritage without forgetting to question yourself. For decades, someone opening a restaurant would do it with the aim of making it grow and then pass it on to their children and so on. Today, things no longer work this way. Establishments survive for less time and you must adapt to a globalized market. You have to be able to break the codes and obvious facts to go further, in places that others have not thought of. In the entire world, people love everything that is “French”. I have restaurants in Hong Kong, Manilla, Baku and everywhere you find this respect and attraction for our lifestyle.
Yet, in France, we are not always able to capitalize on this and today we find ourselves in a paradoxical situation where French gastronomy exports itself abroad while foreigners buy the firms in France! It is also our role to show young people that they must be proud of their heritage so that we do not wake up one day with all our treasures bought or transformed by others. A way to fight for that can be for instance the choice of the products: at my place, I use blocks that come from Sologne, knives from the Basque Country… and the public notices it.
Finally, if I had one last advice to give, it would be to always invest more in your project and to really get personally involved to make it work. Every year, I go to the South with my children to prepare the olive oil that will then be served at my tables. It is a small example but these are the kinds of things that, when they add up, lead to success. And if that is not enough, don’t hesitate to try again.