Born into a dynasty of pastry chefs in Mont de Marsan in southwest France, Jessica Préalpato was arguably always destined to reach the zenith of sweet cookery. Growing up surrounded by the abundant natural produce of Les Landes and at the apron strings of her parents in the kitchen, she developed a love for desserts that would come to define her career.
Now the Head Pastry Chef at Parisian restaurant Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Préalpato has taken her passion and developed it into a style of cooking that complements Ducasse’s own ‘cuisine naturalité’. She has coined her style of pastry, which focuses on highlighting the essential flavours and minimising the use of sugar, as ‘desseralité’ (a combination of dessert and naturalité). It has won her a dedicated following across the world, as well as the title of The World’s Best Pastry Chef 2019, sponsored by Sosa.
Adopting the viewpoint that desserts should pay homage to the produce, Préalpato now deploys creations that take simple French ingredients – such as peanuts from the region of Hautes-Pyrénées or citrus from the countryside near Perpignan in southeast France – and highlights their flavours, striving to find a pure way to express their natural qualities.
The result is minimalist and fruit-forward desserts that do away with heavy creams, sugar and doughs in favour of lighter elements. In Préalpato’s vision, citrus fruits are accompanied by an airy version of teurgoule (a rice pudding from Normandy), while fresh strawberries are served simply alongside soy milk.
Starting out as a psychology student, Préalpato soon realised that the pull of pastry was too strong and moved to Biarritz to study the culinary arts. Her career began at La Chèvre d’Or on the French Riviera with Michelin-starred chef Philippe Labbé, soon leading her to work with other acclaimed cooks, such as Philippe Etchebest at L’Hostellerie de Plaisance and the Ibarboure brothers at Les Frères Ibarboure in Bidart.
Moving to Paris in 2010, Préalpato was part of the team that led the opening of Fréderic Vardon’s 39V restaurant in the French capital, where she stayed to become a sous chef at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme. A job as chef pâtissière for the Corfou Group between 2012 and 2015 gave her the chance to travel across France and the world, expanding her knowledge and expertise in the culinary sphere.
When she joined the team at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée as pastry chef in 2015, Préalpato found inspiration in Ducasse and chef de cuisine Romain Meder’s natural culinary philosophy, reviewing and adapting her style to complement the restaurant’s overall ethos. Her zeitgeisty style, which speaks to the current trends in gastronomy for reduced sugar and clean flavours, marks her out as a worthy winner of this prestigious title.