The Best Pastry Chef in the World Has Plans to 'Replace the Macaron'
In the restaurant world, there are very few awards dedicated solely to the art of pastry, making that recognition all the more coveted for the chefs who've chosen sugar as their medium. The most coveted award, perhaps, is the Best Pastry Chef from the World’s 50 Best, a title snagged yesterday by French pastry mastermind, Cédric Grolet.
From an edible Rubik’s cubes to lifelike fruits sculpted with paper thin chocolate, Grolet's creations prove his singular vision. We caught up with the pastry chef (and Instagram legend) following his big win at The World’s 50 Best ceremony in Bilbao to get some insight into the next big trends in pastry and his buzzing new pâtisserie, Le Meurice Cédric Grolet.
(For background on the longstanding gender inbalances in the pastry world, please read this piece on the marginalization of female pastry chefs, and this piece on the World's 50 Best's problems with inclusion.)
What do you feel is an underused ingredient in the pastry world right now?
Two things that are really underexploited are pepper and vegetables. I’m currently working with these ingredients to create something bigger with them.
How have things been with the opening of the new pâtisserie?
Hard. It’s a unique concept in France to have my own boutique linked to the restaurant, and what’s the most difficult part for me is to see people waiting. Some people wait for one and a half hours and when we sell out, we sell out. We open at noon, and things are usually sold out in about four hours. People are always like, ‘Oh I came but it was closed ... I can’t leave early from work,’ so that is hard for me.
You have a massive Instagram following. How do you find Instagram and social media influential in your creations?
Four years ago, I didn’t know what Instagram was. I had a friend who showed it to me, and I put a picture up and suddenly all these likes came and I was super surprised. From then my followers have just kept going up and up, almost reaching one million now. Instagram is a great tool. It’s a direct relationship with your client, and you get the comments right there so you know exactly what works and what doesn’t work. You know what to put on the menu because it gets likes or it doesn’t. With this tool people can really live with me no matter where I am and what I am doing. It’s limitless, and you just post something and anyone in the world can see it right away.
As the newly appointed "best pastry chef in the world," what do you see as the next trend in pastry?
For me the next big trend is authenticity. You can’t exist and survive if you aren’t authentic and sincere in terms of everything you’re doing. Respect of raw materials. It’s like, everything I do is about how I really feel and to give the best picture of that thing that I can. Like no filter, just real. If you want to really succeed you have to be authentic. You can’t play a role. It’s fake and people feel it.
Innovation in pastry and trends evolve and eventually become mainstream, like the cronut. You can now even find cronuts at the airport Starbucks. What do you see becoming the next mainstream trend turned pastry norm?
First of all, to me a copy like that is never equal to the original. But my sculpted fruits have been copied many times all over the world already, so I think that will become mainstream. What is really going to be the next thing though is something I have been working on for three years. I’m going to replace the macaron. It’s a big feat. I would talk about it, but I want it to be totally perfect when the world first hears about it, and I don’t feel that it is there just yet.
If you want to treat yourself to something, where do you like to go?
What I love more than anything is small local places for simple things. What’s important for me isn’t just the food on the plate, but all the things you feel like the people and the environment. The atmosphere is what I love and that enhances the taste so much. I also love McDonald's. I would die for a steak burger. I am jealous of them for how good it is. It’s my guilty pleasure, but I haven’t been there in three years cause it’s bad for me.