Header: Cédric Grolet with Quico Sosa, General Manager, Sosa Ingredients
Fresh from winning a new title as The World’s Best Pastry Chef 2018, sponsored by Sosa, Cédric Grolet is the hottest pâtissier in the world right now. We find out why fruit has defined his career and discover some of the secrets behind his unique desserts.
As Cédric Grolet stepped on the stage of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018 to receive his award as The World’s Best Pastry Chef, his nearly-a-million-strong Instagram followers let out a collective sigh. In a world increasingly aware of issues of nutrition and healthy diets, the young sensation’s unique sculpted fruits – sweet creations that immaculately resemble the real thing – could not be more zeitgesty, and have attracted the attention of global culinary stars and foodies alike.
Thrilled with his award – the latest in a series of international accolades – Grolet is determined not to stop in his search for the most delicious pastry. “The award makes me extremely happy,” he says, “but it also puts me under indirect pressure. Today we don’t just have to make pastry, we have to make the best pastry in the world. But I always try to surpass myself and do better.”
A pâtissier since the age of 13, Grolet grew up in the Rhône-Alpes region of eastern France, where his grandparents led a restaurant. But what he most remembers from his youth is the fruit that his mother would give him as a healthy snack: colourful, flavoursome fresh produce, which was often picked straight from the tree.
Now, Grolet’s sculpted fruits – from strawberries to lemons and hazelnuts – have become his signature as well as the subject of his first book, published in autumn 2017 and aptly named Fruits. Grolet is as dedicated to paying homage to these wonders of nature as he is to giving them an eye-catching presentation. However, both of these aspects are done in the service of flavour, ensuring that the taste of each fruit can shine in a natural and pure way.
“I try to create pastries with the least possible sugar and where the taste predominates above everything else,” he says. “It’s really important for me to showcase what nature can offer by creating my pastries based on the seasons and the produce available at that time of the year.”
A dessert such as Lemon, for instance, is created with a homemade lemon curd, poached lemons, white chocolate and yuzu ganache and yellow lemon coating. A realistic imitation of the lemon’s rough skin is achieved using a lemon and sugar spray and by finishing the dessert with a golden airbrush.
Always passionate about sweets and desserts, Grolet took an apprenticeship at 13, then went on to study at the renowned Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Pâtisserie in Yssingeaux. In 2006, he landed a job at Fauchon in Paris, an iconic pâtisserie company where he worked with pastry chef Christophe Adam. Five years later, he became sous chef at the French capital’s historic hotel, Le Meurice. When Alain Ducasse took over Le Meurice’s restaurant in 2013, he gave Grolet a chance to create the dessert menu – and the rest is history.
Under Ducasse’s guidance, Grolet focused on creating a pastry offer that wasn’t excessively sweet and that focused on natural flavours, encouraged by the French chef’s disfavour of sugar. Soon promoted to head pastry chef, Grolet also led the opening of Le Meurice’s first pastry boutique in March 2018, where he showcases not only his trompe l’oeil fruits, but also refreshing takes on classic French desserts and other creative pastries, such as the Rubik’s Cake.
Made of 27 individual pastries – each created from one of Grolet’s cake recipes – the geometrical dessert features dozens of different textures, flavours and colours, allowing the guest to taste many different aromas in one eye-catching dessert.
Grolet’s repertoire also includes light and refreshing takes on traditional French desserts, such as the tarte au pommes. Another geometrical creation, this cake requires all the patience and technical skill that the French pastry chef has already proved in his works, as the cake is topped with a sculpture of impossibly thin apple slices constructed into the shape of a rose.
As for what inspires him in the culinary world today, he mentions Melbourne croissanterie Lune, an industrial, sleek space in Fitzroy whose pastries have been defined as ‘the world’s best croissants’. “I find the idea very interesting because it is an original concept of exhibition of pastries,” says Grolet. “It’s about the way they make them, present them, sell them, and the neighbourhood they are in. There is a sincerity in the products, a respect towards them and a lot of gluttony!”
A chef not alien to Instagram trends, Grolet even has his own hashtag (#cgfruits) where you can see his creations and well as those of his fans – professional and amateur – who follow the recipes in Fruits and try to recreate Grolet’s desserts. He confesses that he is working on a new book, the details of which are still under wraps, but with so many achievements already under his belt at the age of 32, expectations are high for The World’s Best Pastry Chef.
Watch the highlights from The World's 50 Best Restaurants 2018: