Here, at Time Out Paris, we enjoy a cake or two. Don't think we're alone there... So, imagine the excitement at meeting the world's best pastry chef! Thankfully, he's here in Paris.
Renowned for his beautiful, precise and often mind-boggling creations, at the young age of 32, Cédric Grolet has been voted the Meilleur Pâtissier du Monde in 2017. We sat down with him to talk about heading up the pastry kitchen of the iconic hotel Le Meurice, his new book, career journey, and what it really takes to be the world's best pâtissier.
We can't promise you won't be famished at the end of this.
Read Next: Our review of Cédric Grolet's afternoon tea at Le Meurice.
You’ve been elected Best Head Pâtissier in France in 2015, 2016 and 2017…and now the Best Pâtissier in the world. What do you think about reaching such a high level? And what’s the next step?
It’s a huge honour, my work is my life. Pâtisserie, for me, it’s as important as drinking water! I’m extremely proud of my team because they’ve been with me since the beginning and always had faith in me.
Us together, not just me, won this prize. I’d be nothing without them...
What’s next? Well, there’s going to be more people coming to Le Meurice which is a lot of pressure because we need to be even better now. I always tell my team; winning the prize doesn’t mean we’re done - it’s now that the real work begins.
My book - Fruits - is coming out, too. I began cooking at 14 years old, so this is a collection of everything I’ve learned since that age.
You’ve travelled to Dubai, Marocco, South Korea, Bejing… Why do you travel for work and which country has inspired you the most?
After I was happy that my team at Le Meurice was settled, I felt more able to leave and visit other countries, do presentations etc. It’s really important from a personal and professional point of view that I keep learning from these different cultures.
Having different reactions to my pâtisseries helps make them better. And it’s never a bad thing to be in some of the most beautiful capitals of the world!
I love Tel Aviv, they have an incredible gastronomic culture that's so joyful and energetic… There’s no frills, they eat in the middle of the table, using their fingers. The products they cook with are relatively simple but it’s the act of sharing that counts. There’s no ‘it has to be like this, pretty like that’. If it’s good, that’s all that matters.
Different from what you do then..!
We don’t eat cake because we’re hungry, we eat cake because we’re greedy! We want that little indulgence...
Let's face it, if pâtisseries weren't beautiful - we wouldn’t eat them. My catchphrase is: "a beautiful cake makes them come, but a good cake makes them come back." Pâtisseries needs to be beautiful and good in order to be great.
Tell us a bit about your book, Fruits…
Fruits have always been my thing, my sculpted fruits are now my signature and I've made mostly fruit-based desserts. In the book I also look at the form and texture of fruit, that’s why the cover feels like lemon peel. I wanted an instant tangible effect.
There's as many recipes for professionals as there are for pâtisserie enthusiasts. I didn’t want to separate the two types of cook.
Why are fruits so inspiring for you?
Because I learned my craft with them, and they’re pure. If you’ve got a good piece of fruit, you don’t need to do a lot with it. Also, fruit speaks to everyone, everyone has eaten it and has memories of it.
I grew up in a hamlet in the middle of nowhere. My parents schooled me with good food rather than sweets: I’d never eaten a McDonalds when I was young! By the time I went to school, my mother knew I’d come into contact with sweets, so she would always send me off with more and more fruit. Endless fruit!
Your creations seem rather complex. Is it really possible to make them at home?
If we could instantly do everything we wanted, life would be so boring. This book gives people the ambition to try. Admittedly, some of recipes are extremely difficult but after you've tried them once, twice, or ten times - at least by that stage we know that it’s possible.
When we have something easily, we don’t learn much. But if it’s difficult and we struggle to have it, and that, for me, is life.
The hashtag - #cgfruits - is on my Instagram account and everyone that’s tried has tagged their posts with it. Some of them are making really complicated things like the Rubik’s Cube! They’re not totally straight or precisely as I’d like, but they’ve tried! It’s a book to inspire people to try.
What are the qualities a top pâtissier has to have?
Patience. It’s a career that demands sacrifice, personal or otherwise. Young people today go very quickly, before even knowing the basics. Things take time to do well.
Curiosity. The French, I think, don’t have enough curiosity compared to other cultures. When I travel, people aren’t afraid to ask questions. Curiosity makes us grow.
For sugar fiends, which are the best patisseries in Paris?
I love Claire Damon at Gateau et du pain, she’s great and works with fruit, too. Also, Pierre Hermé, he has an incredible generosity in his cakes; and Christophe Michalak, who is always bold and extremely forward-thinking.