Our interview with Cédric Grolet crowned best pastry chef by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards
Cédric Grolet can certainly make pastry. Trained by master pâtissier and creator of the indulgent L’Eclair de Génie, Christophe Adam, Grolet moved in 2011 to Parisian high luxury hotel Le Meurice to work alongside two Michelin stalwarts, head chef Alain Ducasse and executive chef Jocelyn Herland. After only two years, Ducasse had seen enough to name him executive pastry chef at the hotel, and his exploits since have only seen his stock rise further among his peers.
Grolet was recently crowned best pastry chef by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards, and it’s not hard to see why. His unfathomably lifelike creations range from fruit, to personal twists on traditional French desserts, and the fruit creations in particular have garnered praise across the gastronomic world - achieved by a thin shell of airbrushed white chocolate, the desserts have to be seen to be believed. Luckily for us, they have helped him gain a formidable following on social media, where he showcases the very best of his wares.
Earlier this year, Grolet opened his first pastry shop, handily situated in Le Meurice. While undoubtedly this is a priceless opportunity to develop his craft within the juggernaut of the Dorchester Collection and under the watchful eye of Ducasse, the opening also reflects on how highly Le Meurice values his skills - the hotel is surely desperate to keep hold of one of its biggest assets. In between bouts of globe-hopping, receiving awards, and the small matter of his day job, we managed a few quiet minutes with the 32-year-old crown prince of pastry.
Q. The 50 Best Awards shows how fêted you are by your peers. How have you reached such a high level of quality in a relatively short period?
"I love watching and listening. Exchange is important of course, but when you have very great professionals in front of you, I think you just have to take what they offer you: their time. It is an honour to win an award which gives me a platform to shine a light on the incredible creativity of pastry chefs the world over. I have been inspired by many innovative chefs in my career and especially by the pâtisserie tradition of my home country of France. I always seek to create moments of togetherness, menus which produce lasting memories and introduce diners to our world. After all, that is what we, as chefs, seek to do every day."
Q. How is working at Le Meurice with Alain Ducasse and Jocelyn Herland?
"The transmission of knowledge is very important to me. I’ve had the chance to learn from a number of very talented chefs; today evolving alongside Alain Ducasse is a great opportunity. His style, centred on essential tastes and original fragrances, allows me to revisit my classic techniques and deepen my skill-set. Both Alain and Jocelyn have taught me how to select raw materials, to ensure their quality, to work with them in the simplest possible way - revealing their optimum taste."
Q. Where do you get the ideas for your pastry creations?
"I am very lucky, my mother is a real cordon bleu. She has always made a lot of desserts at home and it is indisputably she who gave me the desire to cook and make pastry. Everything is inspiring. I draw a lot from my childhood memories and my education, but typically, I am inspired by everything around me; fashion, cars, colours, architecture, museums, travels. I’m particularly inspired by the cultures from all different countries in which I have traveled. I love Asia; I have had the chance to travel there several times. I particularly appreciate the delicacy of the products used and their originality. There is no bad idea."
Q. What makes a great pâtissier?
"A great pâtissier... what a question! I do not think there are any specific criteria. In addition to mastering the classics, the key is to be greedy, curious and passionate. My only pleasure is to evoke an emotion. The profession of a pastry chef is very demanding, but it is also very rewarding. To secretly observe an unknown person and to read joy and happiness from the first bite is magical. I like more than anything that my pastries evoke a pleasant memory."
Q. What's next for you?
"My goal is to grow my team, to push our knowledge further and develop our good relations. I would also like to develop my shop internationally."
Writer: David RS Taylor