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FOOD & DRINK

French pastry chef’s ‘food porn’ has millions drooling on Instagram

When Cedric Grolet takes out his pastry knife, millions of mouths water. The young Frenchman, named the top patissier on the planet last month by "The World's 50 Best Restaurants" list, is an Instagram superstar.

French pastry chef's 'food porn' has millions drooling on Instagram
Photo: AFP

Videos of him slicing through the exquisite fake fruit he creates to reveal their tastebud-teasing interiors get millions of views on social media.

Millions more drool over images of his glossy hyper-realistic pears, apricots, lemons, peaches and even tomatoes, with Vogue — a magazine not  known for its championing of high-calorie desserts — saying they “leave you wanting to lick the screen”.

“His fans cry, fall into his arms and demand autographs” and selfies, said the usually sober French daily Le Monde.

His work is pure “food porn”, it declared, with only a select few getting the chance to consummate their desire every day at the top Paris hotel where he works.

With high tea at Le Meurice featuring his cakes sometimes booked weeks in advance, Grolet opened a tiny boutique there in March.

Its shelves empty within hours every day.

 

??

A post shared by Cedric Grolet (@cedricgrolet) on Jan 18, 2018 at 2:15am PST

 

 

#foodporn ?

A post shared by Cedric Grolet (@cedricgrolet) on Feb 23, 2018 at 4:37am PST

His Rubik's cube cake — which pivots just like the real thing — has become a cult on the fashionable Parisian dinner circuit, although at 170 euros ($200) for a cake for six, only those with the deep pockets can afford it.

Grolet has even made a blue, white and red version to celebrate France's World Cup win earlier this month.

Like the members of the French football team, he is something of a working-class hero.  

 

Merci la #france ?⚪️♥️

A post shared by Cedric Grolet (@cedricgrolet) on Jul 15, 2018 at 1:00am PDT

Eating with our eyes

The son of a hairdresser and truck driver from a small town near Saint-Etienne in central France, his moment of revelation came when he was only 13.

“A farmer gave me a basket of strawberries for helping him pick his crop and I made a strawberry tart with them for my grandfather,” who ran a small 
hotel nearby, he told AFP. 

It went down so well that Grolet left school early to apprentice himself to the village baker.

“I would make bread all night so that I would be allowed to make the desserts at 11 in the morning. My reward was to be able to slice the apples and cover the tarts in strawberries.”

 

#абрикос ??

A post shared by Cedric Grolet (@cedricgrolet) on May 26, 2018 at 6:20am PDT

He later studied fine patisserie and began winning prizes before leaving to make his name in Paris aged 20. There he worked for the French gourmet food and delicatessen chain Fauchon, which eventually sent him to Beijing to help train its staff there.

It was also at Fauchon that he worked alongside Christophe Adam in its research laboratory, developing new recipes.

“It was every patissier's dream,” he said, “trying new things every day.”

Like Adam, who has since founded L'Eclair de Genie, a chain in France and Japan, Grolet has been crowned French patissier of the year and hailed by macaroon guru Pierre Herme as “one of the most talented patissiers of his generation”.

 

19h.. #thanks

A post shared by Cedric Grolet (@cedricgrolet) on May 20, 2018 at 9:26am PDT





'Naked patisserie'

Grolet followed Adam to the exclusive Le Meurice, which is owned by the Sultan of Brunei. He now works there as pastry chef under celebrity cook Alain Ducasse, who urged him to “work even more on taste”.

“Visual beauty attracts the customer, but it is the taste that makes them come back,” said Grolet, who as a millennial himself knows that Generation Y eats with its eyes.

The fact that his creations are not overly sweet has also endeared him to the calorie-conscious beautiful people who queue every day outside his 
mini-boutique, the first of what Grolet hopes will be a handful across the world.

He began perfecting his extraordinarily delicate fruit six years ago, with their highly worked lifelike skins made from chocolate, with a mousse or marmalade interior made from the real fruit.

“The idea was to do away with the biscuit, the eggs, all the things whose taste doesn't really do anything and to concentrate on the taste of the fruit,” Grolet told AFP.

 

#patisserie ??‍?

A post shared by Cedric Grolet (@cedricgrolet) on May 1, 2018 at 2:04am PDT

It is what he calls “naked patisserie”.

His tarts have a similar hyper-natural edge, with fruit as finely cut as flower petals.

With more than a million followers on Instagram alone, Grolet is almost as savvy with his smartphone as his with his blowtorch.

“Making cakes is one thing but you have to know how to communicate. You cannot imagine how many photos I take before posting one,” he told AFP.  

And not being in the country does not stop him creating. He keeps in constant contact with his laboratory at Le Meurice through WhatsApp.

“I draw and work even when I am on the plane, sending back everything that is in my head, and pictures of everything that I loved eating,” said the self-confessed “hyperactive” globetrotter.

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Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

One thing everyone can agree on is that France has a lot of cheese - but exactly how many French fromages exist?

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

Question: I often see a quote from Charles de Gaulle talking about ‘246 different types of cheese’, but other articles say there are 600 or even 1,000 different types of cheese and some people say there are just eight types – how many different cheeses are there in France?

A great question on a subject dear to French hearts – cheese.

But it’s one that doesn’t have a simple answer.

Charles de Gaulle did indeed famously say “How can anyone govern a country with 246 different types of cheese”, but even in 1962 when he uttered the exasperated phrase, it was probably an under-estimate.

READ ALSO 7 tips for buying cheese in France

The issue is how you define ‘different’ types of cheese, and unsurprisingly France has a complicated system for designating cheeses.

Let’s start with the eight – there are indeed eight cheese ‘families’ and all of France’s many cheeses can be categorised as one of;

  • Fresh cheese, such as cottage cheese or the soft white fromage blanc
  • Soft ripened cheese, such as Camembert or Brie
  • Soft ripened cheese with a washed rind, such as l’Epoisses or Pont l’Eveque
  • Unpasturised hard cheese such as Reblochon or saint Nectaire
  • Pasturised hard cheese such as Emmental or Comté
  • Blue cheese such as Roquefort 
  • Goat’s cheese
  • Melted or mixed cheese such as Cancaillot

But there are lots of different types of, for example, goat’s cheese.

And here’s where it gets complicated, for two reasons.

The first is that new varieties of cheese are constantly being invented by enterprising cheesemakers (including some which come about by accident, such as le confiné which was created in 2020).

The second is about labelling, geography and protected status.

France operates a system known as Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC or its European equivalent AOP) to designate food products that can only be made in a certain area.

As cheese is an artisan product, quite a lot of different cheese are covered by this – for example a blue sheep’s milk cheese is only Roquefort if it’s been aged in the caves in the village of Roquefort.

There are 63 listed AOC cheeses in France, but many more varieties that don’t have this protected status.

These include generic cheese types such as BabyBel and other cheeses that are foreign in origin but made in France (such as Emmental).

But sometimes there are both AOC and non-AOC versions of a single cheese – a good example of this is Camembert.

AOC Camembert must be made in Normandy by farmers who have to abide by strict rules covering location, milk type and even what their cows eat.

Factory-produced Camembert, however, doesn’t stick to these rules and therefore doesn’t have the AOC label. Is it therefore the same cheese? They’re both called Camembert but the artisan producers of Normandy will tell you – at some length if you let them – that their product is a totally different thing to the mass-produced offering.

There are also examples of local cheeses that are made to essentially the same recipe but have different names depending on where they are produced – sometimes even being on opposite sides of the same Alpine valley is enough to make it two nominally different cheeses.

All of which is to say that guessing is difficult!

Most estimates range from between 600 to 1,600, with cheese experts generally saying there are about 1,000 different varieties. 

So bonne dégustation!

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