Home Featured Meet Le Royal Monceau’s New Pastry Chef Yazid Ichemrahen

Meet Le Royal Monceau’s New Pastry Chef Yazid Ichemrahen

Meet Le Royal Monceau’s New Pastry Chef Yazid Ichemrahen

PARIS – Yazid Ichemrahen is used to beating the odds.

Raised in foster care from a young age, he honed his skills as a pastry chef in prestigious establishments that included the Hotel Métropole in Monaco, even when his financial situation was so precarious he was forced to sleep on the street.

At the age of 22 he was part of the French team that won the coveted Gelato World Cup in Italy, going on to open a chain of ice cream stores with entrepreneur Bernard Blachère, the founder of France’s largest bakery chain. Now at the head of his own growing pastry empire, the 32-year-old is finally making it big on home turf.

A star on social media, with 1.6 million followers on Instagram, Ichemrahen has just inked a contract to create the dessert menus for the Royal Monceau Raffles Paris hotel, and he’s planning to open his own upscale café in the French capital later this year.

“This was a dream of mine,” he says over afternoon tea at Le Bar Long, the hotel bar designed by Philippe Starck, where he has set out three of his signature desserts for a tasting. “I started out overseas and things have been a bit tougher for me in France, given my history, so I was no longer expecting to be named chef at a luxury hotel.”

Yazid Ichemrahen and his executive pastry chef Alexandre Favre.

Yazid Ichemrahen and Alexandre Favre

Tuki Muri/Courtesy of Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris

Ichemrahen is particularly proud to be a brand partner to the hotel, delegating operational duties to his executive chef Alexandre Favre.

“There’s a very big difference for me, because when you are head pastry chef, you are the property of the establishment, so to speak,” he says. “This partnership allows me to not only express myself creatively here, but also to continue working on my other projects.”

Unlike his peers, many of whom have been mentored by industry legends, Ichemrahen has carved out his own career path, driven by an urge to transcend his tragic childhood with a success story of his own making. His autobiographical book, “A Boy With Stars in His Hands,” was adapted into a film, “Sugar and Stars,” released last year.

It details how as a young child Ichemrahen shuttled between living with a loving foster family during the week, to staying with his mother, a prostitute addicted to alcohol, on weekends. It also touches on the death of his baby brother while in his mother’s care, and how Ichemrahen found solace in the meditative act of baking.

“My day-to-day life was so hard, with my mom and everything else, that the only thing that felt good on this Earth was making cakes,” he says. “That’s why I often say that pastry cooking saved my life.”

It was also a way to endear himself to his foster parents, whose two sons were pastry chefs.

“When I baked cakes, it made them super proud of me because I was following in their kids’ footsteps. When you grow up in care, the thing you crave most is recognition. Everything I’ve ever done, I’ve done to compensate for a lack of recognition, often more than for my personal satisfaction,” he concedes.

Pastry chef Yazid Ichemrahen's Black Forest cake

Yazid Ichemrahen’s Black Forest cake.

Tuki Muri/Courtesy of Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris

As a budding chef he would train for up to 18 hours a day to perfect his technique and prepare for the competition that would set him on his path to being his own boss. After parting ways with Blachère, he founded his company Ycone in 2016 and now consults for brands including Beefbar and Ling Ling by Hakkasan.

Ichemrahen’s icons growing up were chefs like Yannick Alléno, whose photograph was pinned to the wall of his room at the children’s home where he was sent in his teens. But these days, the man he looks up to is Bernard Arnault, founder of the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton luxury empire and the world’s richest man.

“It’s the world’s number-one luxury group and I know all their interviews by heart because when I’m on the treadmill, I watch them on repeat and I visualize what I need to do with my company,” says the avid runner and self-confessed workaholic.

That’s why on Instagram, photographs of his immaculate creations are interspersed with images of his jet-setting lifestyle, rather than the viral baking reels favored by other popular chefs like Cédric Grolet.

“You’re never going to see me making giant cakes with 200 pounds of flour on Instagram, because that’s not me and that’s not what I want to represent,” Ichemrahen demurs.

Rather, he seeks to project the image of a successful entrepreneur, a strategy he believes is key to making it in regions like Asia, the Middle East and the United States, even if it has earned him some eye rolls from other French chefs.

Le Bar Long at Le Royal Monceau

Le Bar Long at Le Royal Monceau.

Courtesy of Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris

“In the beginning, my image and my way of communicating on social media did me a disservice, more than anything else,” he concedes. “It can easily come across as kitsch if it’s badly done.”

On the day of the interview, Ichemrahen has dressed the part, wearing a Givenchy U-Lock blazer over the embroidered chef’s jacket reserved for past winners of the frozen dessert world championship. On his wrists are a Fred Force 10 bracelet and Hublot Classic Fusion watch.

Beyond his carefully crafted look, luxury codes inspire his recipes and hospitality concepts, which range from the more accessible Ytime, a California-inspired café offering everything from avocado toast to cookies, to his upscale pastry salon Ycone Paris.

The latter bowed with pop-ups in Gstaad, Switzerland, and the Nammos Village luxury shopping destination in Mykonos, Greece, and just completed a winter residency at the Hotel Lys Martagon in the French ski resort of Courchevel.

Ycone also has a permanent presence at the recently opened Raffles Al Areen Palace in Bahrain, with another to come at the new Raffles in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Ichemrahen hopes to work with more luxury brands as well.

“My Instagram account and my cake designs are aimed at people outside my industry. Right now, I’m looking to collaborate with big jewelry or couture houses,” he explains.

Yazid Ichemrahen's rice pudding

Yazid Ichemrahen’s rice pudding.

Tuki Muri/Courtesy of Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris

No matter how sleek they look on the outside, Ichemrahen purposely keeps his desserts simple with no more than three ingredients and three textures.

Ideally they should be the luxury equivalent of comfort food, he says, citing the example of the rice pudding he serves at Le Royal Monceau, which is made with milk from a farm near Paris and rice from the Camargue region, infused with vanilla for 48 hours.

“Because of where I come from, I want to make desserts that can be understood and liked by everyone,” he says.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the client experience. “This, to me, is real luxury. It’s not about how much it costs, or how beautiful or expensive it looks. A lot of people make great cakes, but cooking with soul, that’s what makes an experience truly unique,” he says.

Together with Favre, he oversees the dessert menus for all the hotel’s restaurants, including the Michelin-starred Il Carpaccio and Matsuhisa Paris. Three days a week, Ichemrahen’s signature desserts are available at Le Bar Long, a scarcity strategy straight out of the luxury playbook.

He’s developing a new concept, called At Home, for his café in Paris just off Place des Victoires set to open this fall. The one-of-a-kind decor, he says, will showcase mementoes illustrating his journey, making it his most personal project to date.

Ichemrahen has a lot riding on the venture. Last time he set out to establish a footprint in Paris was when he opened two smaller Ytime locations just before the pandemic. The subsequent lockdowns meant he lost around 700,000 euros, almost sinking his business. “Paris has left me feeling a little traumatized,” he confesses.

Still, he’s dreaming big. Next in his sights is a pop-up in New York City, where he hopes to live someday. “My English stinks,” he says ruefully. “But that’s the great thing about pastry. At the end of the day, it’s like music: it’s a universal language.”

Yazid Ichemrahen's lemon cake.

Yazid Ichemrahen’s lemon cake.

Tuki Muri/Courtesy of Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris