How does Alain Allegretti juggle restaurants in two different states? “I gave up sleeping,” he explains. But don’t expect this handsome chef to give up his golf game or sex. Alain Allegretti has a lot on his plate right now, with the opening of his new restaurant, Azure, in Atlantic City, along with his flagship restaurant, La Promenade de Anglais, but he’s taking it all in stride with no plans to slow down any time soon. That’s a good thing because he’s one of the most talented, young French chefs in the country.
Allegretti first arrived on the New York dining scene in 2001, after honing his culinary skills in France – Restaurant Le Chantecler, Chez Chapel, and Restaurant Le Louis XV to name a few. And it wasn’t long before Allegretti was running his own eponymous restaurant, Allegretti, followed by Le Promenade des Anglais. You won’t find a replica of Le Promenade at the Jersey shore. “Azure is more appealing on a commercial scale. We wanted to create a vibrant atmosphere of food and fun on a much grander platform.” And while Allegretti has made a name for himself as “one of the city’s most adept practitioners of modern French cuisine,” his next venture will draw upon other inspirations. “My next project will showcase my Asian background, a new version of Le Colonnial,” he tells us. No wonder he’s not sleeping much these days.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I still don’t know, and I feel so young!
What was your first job in food?
Vegetable peeler and dishwasher
What was your biggest kitchen disaster?
One time, a butcher I worked for chased me around the kitchen with a cleaver because he apparently did not like my less than sweet response to a less than sweet criticism of my work.
First off, congratulations on the opening of your second restaurant, Azure. Why open a restaurant in Atlantic City?
I was excited about the location and the idea of what Revel Hotel was trying to create. I thought that it would be a great fit to do a seafood restaurant alongside both the Revel team and the talented chefs they brought together. We are all given the unique opportunity to bring something different to the seaside.
How would you describe the differences between Azure and La Promenade des Anglais?
Slot machines and open container laws? Kidding… They are completely different. La Promenade is a jewelry box in an iconic neighborhood; it is a place where you want each one of your guests to become your good friend. Azure is more appealing on a commercial scale. We wanted to create a vibrant atmosphere of food and fun on a much grander platform.
Describe your ideal meals at both.
Same for both – Boston lettuce, whole grilled Snapper and a middle course of Paccheri. Magnifique!
With a restaurant in New York City, and a new one in Atlantic City, how do you balance the two?
I gave up sleeping.
What were some of your favorite foods your grandmother taught you to cook when you were a child growing up in Nice?
She taught me how to make fresh pasta and fresh tomato sauce from the garden.
Your career has spanned from France to New York, from Le Cirque to Azure, if you could do it all over again, what kitchen would you like to find yourself in again?
All of them were important to me – to create a perfect kitchen I would take a piece from every place I have been. I feel home at La Promenade des Anglais.
Who are some of your culinary mentors? What is one of the biggest lessons that you’ve learned from them?
Alain Ducasse: He taught me how to incorporate a business perspective with an unguarded and honest passion for food
Jacques Maximin: He taught me how to cook
Sirio Maccioni: He taught me how to be charismatic.
On a rare day off, what would we find you doing and where would we find you eating?
I wake up early, have breakfast, go to the gym, golf, meet friends for cocktails, have a lovely dinner at home, leaving room for both dessert and sex—sleep, if there’s time.
What’s the latest restaurant in New York that has really wowed you?
I will always try all kinds of restaurants – but my favorite casual spot is Locanda Verde.
For good fancy staples; you can’t go wrong with Eric and Daniel.
Other than your own, what are your favorite French spots in the city?
How would you describe your cooking style? Do you see yourself situated in more of the old school French camp or do you more so align yourself with modern cooking?
Well Pete Wells was kind enough to sum it up in his NY Times review of La Promenade when he called me “one of the city’s most adept practitioners of modern French cuisine.” That one sentence was beyond flattering and truly humbling!
What neighborhood do you live in and what are your favorite places to dine there?
Borderline between Financial and Tribeca – Thai Son and Locanda Verde
Where do you see yourself in ten years? What’s next on the horizon, a book, another restaurant…?
Next to the ocean and retired in a place where the sun shines all year long. My next project will showcase my Asian background, a new version of Le Colonnial.
You’re on your deathbed…sex or dinner? (And yes, you must pick one)
If I’m on my deathbed, I would let my lover choose. Let’s hope she’ll know best!