Master pâtissier Cédric Grolet talks taste
My personal style signifiers are tattoos, Nike sneakers, and oversized T-shirts, often with a lot of colour because that reflects my personality. I think a casual style – and being comfortable in the kitchen – is the way to go. The tattoos serve as special souvenirs from the places I’ve been. I started getting them when I was younger whenever I went on a trip – such as my sleeve, which is in the Māori style, from Tahiti. I also have tattoos that reflect my work, such as the rolling of dough or the fruit trees that inspire my creations.
The last thing I bought and loved was a special birthday dinner for friends in Bali. We ate delicious burgers on the beach with our feet in the sand.
The best souvenir I’ve brought home are vanilla beans from Tahiti. These beans are so floral, and I’ve developed several new pastries for my bakery Cédric Grolet Opéra and Le Meurice. I like to use one main ingredient – for example, my Vanilla Flower cake is a mix of vanilla ganache, vanilla almond biscuit, vanilla milk jam and vanilla cream. And my Vanilla Bean is a trompe-l’oeil pastry that you cut into to reveal a variety of textures.
The best book I’ve read in the past year is Les Lapins Ne Mangent Pas De Carottes (Rabbits Don’t Eat Carrots) by journalist Hugo Clément, which looks at climate change and biodiversity. I also published my own book this year, Flowers. It took me more than a year to complete, so it’s been incredible to see it come to fruition.
In my fridge you’ll always find water and fresh fruits and vegetables. I’m very careful about my health and what I eat, so I tend towards unprocessed things. I like to have fresh juices in the morning, especially pineapple juice, so I always have that on hand. If I’m in London, working at my patisserie at The Berkeley, however, I’ll usually just wait until I get to their kitchens, as the juice there is amazing.
My style icon is the New York-based artist Daniel Arsham. I love his art, film and architecture work – and his subject matter, which is often in a state of decay. And then his personal style – the way he wears workwear clothing, and even his sneakers… it all just works.
The festive tradition I most look forward to is returning home to my family for the holidays. Once we’re all together again, we just chill out for four straight hours and eat bread and drink hot chocolate. It’s a delicious and simple time, but it’s about connection. It’s also when we like to have the special bûches de Noël cakes of my childhood.
I don’t listen to podcasts because I am very focused on my work and, although I know that TV, social media and podcasts are great sources of knowledge, I prefer not to be influenced by other people’s ideas.
The best gift I’ve given recently is a gold Cartier Love bracelet to my girlfriend, Astrid-Olivia. I like to think that I am good at giving thoughtful presents, but this one was special because it was the first important show of my love for her.
And the best gift I’ve received is a two-day camping trip in the jungles of Bali for a special celebration. My friends took me and we snorkelled, and ate and slept outside. It was a special time because of the company and also because we were all away from technology and focused on our time together.
The last music I downloaded was by Brown Sugar. I like music that starts out slow and builds to a faster tempo to give good vibes and positive energy. I am always listening to music – while I am exercising, relaxing at home and, of course, cooking. At my café you’ll always hear chill music like “Something About You” by Elderbrook and Rudimental. It just sets the right tone.
The place I am excited to go to next is to Megève or Praz-sur-Arly this winter, to snowboard with friends. I am looking forward to any trip, anywhere, that involves snowboarding, but the French Alps are always my favourite for the terrain.
I have a collection of pastry books and books about sports cars. I have a lot by noted French chefs and friends such as Pierre Hermé, Christophe Adam and Alain Ducasse, and also books about Formula 1 and, specifically, Lamborghinis, which I am obsessed with. Books about watches are another interest. All of these interests are linked by the requirement for extreme precision in their execution.
The thing I couldn’t do without is my exercise routine. I like to go to the gym at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée before work and this time allows me to focus. If I am not feeling creative or positive, I’ll just work out to feel better. One hour of cardio and weights with my trainer per day is a necessity for me.
I’ve recently rediscovered Jean-François Piège’s Le Grand Restaurant, in Paris. The cuisine and his technique are so precise, but nothing is ever fussy. The marble and wood panelling and the sculptural glass ceiling make this room very special. I had lobster cooked right in front of me – in the Parisien pavé cooking style – with which I drank a Domaine de la Grange des Pères 2008.
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a pair of Travis Scott x Nike sneakers. I’m a big fan of sneakers generally, but these are a collector’s item, and they haven’t come out of the box yet. I like their cream-white colour with touches of brown and red, and I think it’s the rarity factor that makes them so cool.
An indulgence I would never forgo is frothy cappuccinos. The mix of espresso and steamed milk with a sprinkling of chocolate is one of life’s great pleasures.
The best bits of advice I ever received were from my family when I was growing up. I was taught to be respectful and polite to everyone, and my mother told me to always bring flowers because they make people smile. Another important influence was Alain Ducasse, who suggested that I cut back on the sweetness of desserts and focus instead on the natural flavours of the fruits and other ingredients I use. This has made all the difference.
My favourite room in my house is my wine cellar, which is a sort of separate space as part of my kitchen. I had a niche designed to hold 10 racks of wines, mostly from Bordeaux. I particularly love good reds from Saint-Joseph and Saint-Émilion, but I also have bottles of Ruinart and Billecart-Salmon, as well as white and rosé wines. I find it a serene place to be.
My favourite building is Château La Coste in the South of France. The architecture by Tadao Ando and Renzo Piano, and work by artists like Louise Bourgeois and Ai Weiwei – it’s perfection, as are the food, the wine, the olive groves and the service. Marina Bay Sands in Singapore is also incredible – a feat of engineering, with the world’s longest elevated pool spread across the roof of its three buildings.
The grooming staple I’m never without is SVR Cicavit+ cream for my tattoos. I put it on every morning to preserve their colour as they tend to fade over time. It’s also extremely moisturising and provides SPF50+, too. £12.50, uk.labo-svr.com
My grooming and wellbeing gurus include Anastasia, my personal trainer who I met via the app TrainMe, and also my barber Thomas at Le Barbutier, who is very important to my overall style. I have been going to him for three years, and he is always available, which is a help with my hectic schedule.
In another life, I would have been a soccer player or a Formula 1 race-car driver. I love the athleticism and commitment in both of these sports.
The place that means a lot to me is the Loire Valley. I grew up there, and I love to go fishing with friends in its rivers, especially the Rhône. This is when I feel most at peace. At the age of 13, I began working in my grandparents’ hotel-restaurant in Andrézieux-Bouthéon, and it’s where I learned to cook and make pastry, so it will always be home.