They say that you eat with your eyes first, which is why chefs always aim to make their creations as attractive as possible. Pastry chef Cédric Grolet, already world-famous for his tasty baked goodies, has elevated standards in the pastry bakery profession with his signature pastries.
On the heels of his celebrated trompe-l’oeil desserts, which accurately mimics freshly-plucked fruit, Grolet has turned the culinary world upside down with his gorgeous and delicious Rubik’s cube cakes!
The choice of design may be peculiar, but it certainly gets a lot of attention. Grolet’s take on the iconic Rubik’s cube is an assembly of 27 individual pastry cubes using sophisticated and elegant colors. The taste is superior as well, with modern and experimental flavor pairings such as apricot and rosemary and cherry and tarragon. The result is both a visually stunning and scrumptious confection.
Already on the world stage at 34, Grolet recalls his inspiration to go into pastry bakery. “I have a particular memory that will remain engraved in my mind forever, when my grandfather showed me how the ice-cream machine works at the age of 6. He made me touch the vanilla ice-cream with the tip of my finger, which melted instantly.”
“I was fascinated. I think that was the moment that I wanted to work on that kind of thing; I wanted to make cakes. I did not even know then that the profession of pastry cook existed.”
Grolet’s appreciation for beauty and good food stems from his childhood in the Loire Valley in France, which is dotted with vineyards, fruit orchards, and artichoke and asparagus fields, and is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site.
He often played in his grandfather’s restaurant, where he served as an apprentice at 13. He didn’t particularly enjoy school, which reinforced the decision to go into pastry making.
“I never liked studying and had really bad results at school. I wanted to cry whenever I got called by a teacher to answer questions!” He also remembers healthy snacks given by his mother – colorful and flavorful fruit, often fresh from the tree – the genesis of Grolet’s signature sculpted fruit desserts.
He was captivated by the creativity that pastry bakery entailed. “French patisserie has a gorgeous appearance. That’s what captured my attention at the beginning. As for now, how pastry looks is still important to me, but I’m more obsessed with the endless combinations of textures and flavors.”
At age 20, Grolet moved to Paris to become a pâtissier. He honed his skills making macaróns at Fauchon, a French gourmet food company and delicatessen established in 1886. Under the tutelage of legendary chef Christophe Adam, Grolet mastered his craft in pastry-making, boulangerie, and product development.
After six years, he then moved to the Michelin-starred Le Meurice to work as a pastry sous chef. In 2012, French culinary superstar Alain Ducasse began to manage the hotel’s restaurant and tasked Grolet with creating the desserts.
Grolet said of Ducasse, “He is someone with a very high standard. He told me that while I had very good technique, it was not enough, because there were so many great chefs out there with fantastic techniques. He wanted me to showcase more personal style and character in the desserts.”
Their partnership would define the taste of Grolet’s pastries. “Alain Ducasse is in fact not a big fan of sugar. He gave me a suggestion to cut back the sweetness, and instead highlight the natural taste of the ingredients as much as possible.”
Ducasse also encouraged Grolet to create desserts that stimulated the senses, leading to the inventive and whimsical desserts that has since won him widespread recognition. In 2018, Grolet received the prestigious Gault Millau Pâtissier of the Year and Best Pastry Chef by the 50 Best Restaurant awards, some of the highest accolades in pastry bakery.
The lifelike flower and fruit desserts, and now the lighthearted Rubik’s cube cakes, may just be the start of Grolet’s already notable career. His mastery of classical French techniques, as well as his mouth-watering concepts, show that Grolet is not only among the best pastry chefs of his generation, but that there is more to come from this imaginative chef.