Famed French Chef Alain Senderens on His New Brooklyn Restaurant, Renouncing His Michelin Stars, and His Inner Badass

An unlikely duo, Cyril Aouizerate and Alain Senderens, dive into Brooklyn culture.
An unlikely duo, Cyril Aouizerate and Alain Senderens, dive into Brooklyn culture. Photo: Courtesy of M.O.B./Copyright James Ewing, Jacques Demarthon/Getty Images

“He may look like an old French man, but he’s a fucking rock star,” Cyril Aouizerate tells Grub Street of his 73-year-old partner at the new Maimonide of Brooklyn, French legend Alain Senderens. Senderens is the culinary iconoclast who earned three Michelin stars for 28 years at Lucas Carton before famously rebelling and giving them back in the name of simplicity. “I was done with the tra-la-la, chi-chi, bling, crystal goblets, and glamour,” he explains. “I wanted to, of course, keep my purveyors and quality of ingredients, but without any of that nonsense! Nobody understood. Michelin certainly didn’t understand.” Perhaps equally hard to grasp is why Senderens and his regal Greek wife have turned up on Atlantic Avenue, serving “vegetarian food for carnivores,” turning heads yet again … this time in fedoras, not berets. Lucky for us, he was more than happy to explain.

Cyril called you a “fucking rock star,” would you agree?
Well, maybe? My wife is the reason for everything. She keeps me cool and tells me what to do. Other than that, I was always attracted to non-mainstream locations and non-mainstream people. The reason I know Cyril is because I’ve been the consulting chef at Mama Shelter [Aouizerate’s famed, hip-hop-magnet Parisian hotel]. I liked it so much there because it was located in an edgy area of Paris, there was nothing typical about it; we always knew Brooklyn would be next.

But serving falafel in Boerum Hill is a little random, non?
Sure, maybe, but I strongly believe that in ten years nobody will be eating meat. This will be the way we eat, entirely vegetarian or vegan, and science and medicine will thoroughly support that. I have always lived in the future, that is a philosophy of mine, and this way of eating is the future. I’m committed to that belief.

Does that mean you’ve given up meat?
Oh, no! But I am an old man. It’s too late for me! Last night, I went to Katz’s.

Well you must have some higher-end reservations while you’re in town?
No, no! I can eat like that in Paris. Here, I want pastrami.