Praises of fermentation

Yannick Alléno (©Geoffroy de Boismenu)

Yannick Alléno (©Geoffroy de Boismenu)

Praises of fermentation, by Yannick Alléno

Yannick Alléno, a 3 Michelin-starred master chef since 2007, presents Terroirs, his latest book which main topic is fermentation in gastronomy, another praise of slowness

« From the moment I realised that sauces have always been the spinal column of cooking, linking the different ingredients on a plate, I decided to experiment with them, discover new flavours and savours and explore new ground.

For over three years, Bruno Goussault ­ scientific director at CREA ­, and I have tested, honed, blended and finally established a new method for intensifying and boosting the taste sensation. It is called Extraction®.
The revolutionary aspect of this completely new technique is in contrast to heat evaporation, a process that has ruled the roost for intensifying the taste of sauces until now. Extraction® however means focusing on the ingredient and keeping it away from the damaging aspects of heat so that the purest flavours can be revealed without the addition of anything else except water.

The second major Eureka moment came in 2014 when Michel Chapoutier mentioned in his vineyard that « only fermented produce really conveys a terroir ». All of a sudden, despite having rambled on for years about Parisian Terroir, I realised that although I had used geolocated products, I had skipped all the work that made them a true expression of their land. Finally I understood about wine and the difference between terroirs, flavour and savours, the impact of the soil, climate and human interaction on each grape juice. In addition to my interest in the best raw products, I must now focus on the fermentation process as a way of making sure that the product expresses and develops itself fully.
In actual fact we are surrounded by fermented products in daily life (ketchup, chocolate, wine, tea, coffee, cheese, bread etc.) but the world of fermentation is not the world of cooking; and even if there is an element of cooking involved, there is no actual cooking at the right temperature.

Until now, fermentation was always aimed at the preservation of products and not at revealing their intrinsic flavours and savours. Now, thanks to our work on Extraction®, we have succeeded in wheedling out the true taste of each product; we just had to apply this fermentation technique after having extensively studied the principle behind it. The result is simply stunning; the product has an incredible taste dimension and displays an oomph unique to its terroir, just like wine. Whereas the Extraction® process brings texture, persistence and minerality to the taste of the ingredient, fermentation brings a shock wave of taste to the table.
Hence our second book being focused on terroirs and fermentation.

These two founding pillars of the renaissance of French cuisine are only the first in a series of constructive reflections on all that was, is, and will be the cuisine of tomorrow. With this approach, asking questions and taking risks are the springboards for a desire for perfection and the ultimate quintessence. »


Written in collaboration with fermentation expert Marie-Claire Frédéric, and prefaced by wine expert and ‘think-tank initiator’ Michel Chapoutier, Terroirs is a fermentation platform. Within the framework of this latest feature of Modern Cuisine, Terroirs takes a new step towards the renaissance of French cuisine.