A serial entrepreneur who opened one Michelin-star restaurant Akrame in Paris, Atelier Vivanda steak bistros in Paris, Hong Kong, Manila and Baku, the Silk Road-inspired Shirvan restaurant, Brut wine and cheese bar, Panivanda panini shop, Mad’leine pastry stand, A’Plum organic cafe and three corners in Printemps department store’s food hall, Akrame Benallal has always dreamed big, believes that nothing is impossible and continually reinvents himself every day. Born in France and raised in Algeria, he’s known for his contemporary and ultra-creative style of cooking imbued with emotion, having worked with Ferran Adrià of El Bulli and Pierre Gagnaire in 2004. Following an inspiring encounter with Anna, an olive grower in the northern Italian province of Liguria, he created the flavored olive oil Caractère with taggiasche olives and wild Voatsiperifery black pepper from Madagascar, best experienced with a piece of sourdough bread.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
What is your best quality?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’m a big eater, and I wouldn’t change it for the world!
Who or what is the greatest love of your life?
Who or what brought you to cooking?
My mother, Louisa. Her incredible talent when cooking every day for the family, generosity and sense of hospitality were deeply inspiring. She has a knack for taking quite ordinary ingredients and transforming them into a remarkable tasting experience.
How would you describe your cuisine and your culinary approach?
Innovative. It’s my signature cuisine that I named “Tradinnovation” (a contraction of “tradition” and “innovation”), which blends my respect for the roots of French gastronomy and my constant search for new flavors and visual compositions.
What is your latest food obsession?
Sushi in Japan!
What is your favorite dish to cook?
Linguine at home with garlic and olive oil.
What are some of your favorite ingredients?
Honey, olive oil and figs.
What does olive oil represent in your cooking philosophy, and what does it add to your cuisine?
It’s a symbol of the Mediterranean and adds warmth to a dish.
How do you choose a good olive oil?
I choose it depending on its origin and terroir.
What was the special dish using extra virgin olive oil that you created for Olio Nuovo Days #5?
I created a grapefruit and tarragon soup topped with with my very own peppery olive oil, Caractère.
Which chefs do you most admire?
Alain Ducasse for his vision and Pierre Gagnaire for his creativity.
What is it that you most dislike about the culinary industry?
There are too many rankings.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
To know what I don’t want anymore.
What is your greatest extravagance?
My love for sports cars.
Which talent would you most like to have?
To be a Formula One driver.
What is your greatest fear?
To no longer have good products on our planet.
What is your current state of mind?
First never follows.
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