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This past April, while the coronavirus was raging through Europe, Cédric Grolet and his team brought giant Easter eggs to a number of hospitals throughout Paris in an effort to cheer up the frontline doctors, nurses, and hospital personnel battling the pandemic. Now that France is back under lockdown, he and his team are delivering their decadent croissants and pastries to whoever orders them through his website, spreading a bit of joy all over the city.
Packaging and transporting the delicate croissants, tarts, and other pastries is no easy feat, but then again Grolet is not one to give up easily when faced with a challenge. The rising star pastry chef entered into the rarefied world of Le Meurice at just 25 years old and has been closely collaborating with Alain Ducasse, who runs the restaurants at Le Meurice and its sister hotel the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property Plaza Athenée, for the past five years. According to Grolet, he and Ducasse share the same goals: to please their guests and push themselves to do the best they can.
When Grolet pushes himself, the results are spectacular. As his 1.7 million Instagram followers around the world know, he has a true passion for pastry and has got the awards and accolades to prove it. In 2015, he was named ‘Best Pastry Chef of the Year’ by Le Chef, in 2017 he earned the title of ‘Best Pastry Chef’ according to Gault & Millau, and in 2018 he was crowned ‘Best Pastry Chef in the World’ by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
His signature creations are the trompe l’oeil fruits served at Le Meurice’s afternoon tea and sold in his patisserie within the hotel. Over the past eight years, he has created 32 varieties. Each one is like an edible sculpture filled with mousse, confit fruit, or praliné made with the fruit or nut it resembles. Crack open the apple—one of the fruits currently on offer—and you’ll find all the flavors of the most delicious tarte tatin you can imagine. The chestnuts contain the irresistible taste of France’s traditional marrons glacés with chestnut mousse, soft pieces of chestnut, and hazelnut pralines. “During my apprenticeship, I had the opportunity to see desserts in the form of squares or triangles, and actually I thought it was a shame to take apples, cherries, lemons, and all these fruits and shape them into squares or triangles,” Grolet told Departures. “Quite simply, I wanted to represent nature through these fruits.”
Grolet grew up in France’s picturesque Loire Valley, where he learned to appreciate the simple pleasures of nature by eating the region’s fruits in their purest form. He apprenticed for five years before moving to Paris and starting out as a commis at Fauchon. After six years there, he was hired as pastry sous chef at Le Meurice and the rest is history.
“There are a lot of pastry chefs in the world who don’t have a precise identity,” Grolet reflected. When it comes to his own philosophy, he attributes his development to many things: his childhood, his apprenticeship, and the drive to always question himself. “Each time I mature my style of pastry-making, everything I lived through before and everything I’m living now makes me who I am today.”
Grolet’s strong identity and growing renown inspired Le Meurice to give him space for his own patisserie within the hotel, which opened in 2018. Last year, he opened a second patisserie with its own unique identity at l’Opéra. “Cakes shaped like flowers—Paris-Brest, vanilla waterlilies, viennoiseries, tartes—everything is displayed as flowers,” Grolet explained. “It’s really a representation of the French patisserie with a floral style.”
Right now, Grolet is focused on getting through this difficult period, but he dreams of one day opening another boutique outside of France. “Because of Covid, everything is on standby, but we’ll work on the next destination when things improve,” he said. “I have clients who really love my work and my goal is to continue to share my pastries.”