Alain Allegretti is the 39 year-old chef-owner of Allegretti, awarded two stars by the New York Times last week. From Nice, and specializing in Niçois food, he's put squarely in the company of other French chefs in NY. Allegretti, who worked for Alain Chapel and Alain Ducasse in France, is representative of a kind of culinary old guard: a strange realm of butchers and cooks all named Alain. In the classic brigade style kitchen, apprentice cooks are sent from station to station within a restaurant's kitchen. Often, as part of their training program, they're sent to work at a far-flung Michelin-starred restaurant in the mountains where all the bars close early. This was Alain Allegretti's experience. And now he works on 22nd Street.
Here, he answers questions about his style of food, his relationship with critics (and Sally Jesse Raphael), and why he doesn't mind New Yorkers who wheel dogs around in baby strollers.
How old were you when you started cooking? I was very young – I grew up on a farm and started cooking with my grandmother. But I was about 20 years old when I first worked in a professional kitchen. After culinary school I went to work for Jacques Maximin at the Chanteclair in the Hotel Negresco, which was great for me. I was lucky to be part of his team; at the time Maximin was one of the best chefs in the world.
Was is Jacques that sent you to the U.S.? No, I went to work for Alain Chapel in Mionnay. From Jacques Maximin I was planning to go work for Alain Ducasse, but unfortunately there was no space for me there. Ducasse told me, in the meantime, spend a little time working for Alain Chapel (Mr. Ducasse's mentor). It was a good culinary experience, don't get me wrong, but Mionnay is outside of Lyon and by 8 o clock everything is closed – it's dead. Luckily, a space finally opened up at Louis XV.