My life in food: Cédric Grolet, pastry chef
'Coconut granita is the best thing for a hot day on a beach'
Thursday 31 October 2013
Grolet is one of the finest pastry chefs in Paris. He took up the wooden spoon at 12, working in the kitchens of his grandparents' hotel in Andrézieux-Bouthéon in the Loire. At 13, he became a kitchen apprentice. By 14, he had specialised in patisserie.
After collecting a clutch of awards – including the National Trophy for Sugar Art – he went to work at Fauchon, training its chefs around the world. Since 2011, he has headed up the pastry kitchens at Le Meurice in Paris, working under Alain Ducasse. He is famed for reinventing classic French desserts.
What are your most and least- used pieces of kitchen kit?
My most trusted ally in the kitchen is, in fact, my pen. Why? Because I write down the things which inspire me. And, of course, I use it to draw my desserts as I develop them.
I know refined sugar isn't kit, but that is the thing I least use in my kitchen, something that surprises some people. I always try to create light pastries – you don't want them to be too sweet or it masks the other flavours.
If you had only £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?
When I go to my family home near Montélimar in southeastern France, I go on walks down the winding country lanes nearby. Often the local producers have set up stalls at the side of the road. You get all sorts of beautiful fruit and veg there. It's cheap, delicious and fresh – so that's where I'd spend my money.
What do you eat for comfort?
Desserts – I am, after all, a pastry chef.
If you could only eat either bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
I would choose bread. You get such incredible varieties, both sweet and savoury. You can even make amazing and delicious desserts with it. I mean, is there anything better than good French toast?
What's your desert island recipe?
I would go for something fresh and light. Maybe a coconut granita with fresh vanilla pods picked from one of the trees on my island. I'd accompany it with slices of freshly-picked pineapple. It would be the best thing for a hot day on a sandy beach – just the thought of it makes me drift into a daydream.
What's your favourite restaurant?
I love L'auberge des Quatre Vents at La Côte Saint-André, close to Lyon in France. The view from the dining room is breathtaking and the dishes are simple yet very fine.
What's your favourite cookbook?
I would say Fauchon by Christophe Adam. I was lucky enough to work with him and I learnt a lot. It is a beautiful book – the desserts are so well illustrated, the pictures perfectly styled. I admire very much books where the pictures give you a mad desire to actually taste the food.
Who taught you to cook?
So many people have taught me so much. I would say Christophe Adam taught me to about the creative process; Benoit Couvrant taught me the importance of being organised; and Camille Lesecq (ex-pastry chef at Le Meurice) taught me how to work with flavour properly. Then, of course, there is Alain Ducasse. You sort of evolve in his presence. Seeing his style – focused on fresh produce and original flavours – has broadened my own knowledge.
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