If Paris has a culinary power couple, the Hermés are it. Pierre, 37, is a fourth-generation baker and pastry chef from Alsace who has had just about every encomium heaped on him. Routinely hailed as a genius, a poet, the new pastry king of Paris (succeeding his mentor, Gaston Lenôtre), Hermé is the only practitioner of his craft to have been named a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres, an honor usually reserved for media celebrities like Gérard Depardieu, Paul Newman and Stephen King.
At 24, Hermé was the wizard behind the confections at Fauchon, the great food store on the Place de la Madeleine. He offered 150 specialties at any given time, and twice a year he also held presentations of new creations--debuts followed hungrily by the French food press. In due course a number of his nouveautés entered the pantheon of French desserts--for example, "Cherry on the Cake," a complex confection that looks like a milk chocolate-coated Flatiron Building with a huge glazed cherry on top. (It came out of a collaboration with the graphic designer Yann Pennors.)
Two years ago Hermé left Fauchon to take over the direction of Ladurée, the mythic pastry shop and tearoom on the Rue Royale, and he masterminded the newer Ladurée on the Champs-Elysées. The latter is a rococo grand café that serves three meals and gives Hermé the opportunity to create savory dishes as well as sweets. And as if all that weren't enough, Hermé has written five books, including a dessert bible for Larousse. He makes his American debut this month with Desserts by Pierre Hermé (Little, Brown), a collaboration with Dorie Greenspan, herself the award-winning author of five cookbooks.