It is not easy to anticipate trends. But if there is one thing that characterizes and stimulates Cédric Grolet’s creativity, it is precisely that, to be ahead of what is to come. So, after the mimetic and the well-known flower-shaped finishes, a few years ago he began to explore the more gastronomic and visual side of viennoiserie. The starting point was the opening of his second store, Opéra, which allows him to work in a pastry shop different from the one he had been developing at Alain Ducasse’s restaurant Le Meurice. Opéra serves as a showcase for him to test himself in another discipline, viennoiserie, with specialties such as Le pain perdu and Baked Apples, which seek simplicity in presentation and absolute pleasure in taste. This was demonstrated in a course he recently offered at L’Atelier, in Barcelona, organized by PastryBCN, where a classic bestseller, Fleur de Vanille, could also be enjoyed. We talk to him in so good.. magazine 29.
What are the keys that allow you to stay at the top in prestige and influence?
That is a complicated question. This is something that my customers should answer. I think that the prestige and influence that I have today is obviously due to the visual impact that my creations have had for years. That is great, but the people who come to my establishments also tell me a lot about the taste of my products. It is good to be innovative, and that your creations have an attractive presentation, but you also have to work a lot on the tasting to get the maximum expression of the flavors.
The search for visual surprise in the finishes of your presentations characterizes your work. But do you think there is still a way to go in the search for surprise through flavor?
In my opinion, I am better at working on the flavor than on the visual aspect of pâtisserie. And one of the points that helps to improve the flavor is, obviously, working with very little sugar, something that is especially noticeable in acidic creations such as the lemon tart. These are very acidic because I look for the maximum expression of the fruit flavor and to surprise the customer when tasting. Something that is pretty visually attracts the customer to the store, but what is good in taste keeps them coming back. This is what is really interesting. The same thing happens in relationships. If you are good looking, a woman may be attracted to you once, but if you are a good person she will stay with you.
‘I am a typical French pastry chef who likes to use butter and I will continue to make my pastries with the same fresh products as I have always done’
Can you always take a risk with taste?
When I get up in the morning I don’t want to take any risks, I just want a croissant and my coffee. At noon I want a light dessert, with little sugar, because I have eaten before and I don’t want to feel heavy in a day that goes on and on. And during the afternoon snack, I’m hungry and want something easy and sweet. On the other hand, when I take my girlfriend out to dinner, I want to impress her. That’s why I take her to a gastronomic restaurant, and then it’s the moment of the visual surprise in the dessert. That is why I can’t just answer you with a yes or a no, because there is a time for everything.
Should pastry chefs pay attention to the new trends that call for lighter, lower-fat, healthier or vegan pâtisserie?
It is clear that everyone has to do what they want and, in particular, I respect all these new trends. It is also necessary that there are options for everyone, but this is not my pâtisserie. I am a typical French pastry chef who likes to use butter and I will continue to make my pastries with the same fresh products as I have always done, regardless of the trends. But you have contributed to creating some of the recent trends. Three years ago, when I opened the Opéra bakery-pastry shop in Paris, I started to explore the more visual and gastronomic side of viennoiserie in the store and on social media. Back then it was little exploited on social networks and now, on the other hand, you find a lot of images. Many pastry chefs have joined this trend. The same thing happened with flower decorations. Today many pastry chefs also use the piping bag to make decorations and finishes in the shape of flowers as I had done before. The same thing happened with the well-known trompe l’oeil decorations that I made for years, the individual pastries that imitate the shape of the fruit. In pastry, what has abounded until recently are entremets with coloring-filled glazes, and now I want to focus on other things, simpler but with more flavor. It is a new trend in pâtisserie.