Jessica Prealpato is one of the world's most renowned pastry chefs and the originator of the concept of Desseralité - a mixture of the two word's dessert and naturalité, a concept developed by Alain Duccase whom Jessica has worked with since 2015. Jessica is most noted for being awarded the title of World's Best Pastry Chef in 2019 and Pastry Chef of the Year by Gault et Millau in 2020. Jessica's first project in London will see Jessica redesign The Carlton Tower's pastry offering in its entirety and create an exciting new take on an Afternoon Tea, inspired by the botanics and flora of iconic Kew Gardens.
An excerpt from a recent interview by Emily Goldfischer, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of www.hertelier.com "The First Woman to Win World's Best Pastry Chef Comes to London: Jessica Prealpato".
I read that you were born into a family of French pastry chefs and bakers, what was your first job?
My first job was helping my mum in the shop. I was a cashier and I put cakes in boxes. I loved it. But my real first job was as a pastry clerk at "Les frères Ibarboure" in the French Basque Country.
Did your family encourage you to become a pastry chef?
At first not really. My father kept telling me that it was a difficult job in the restaurant business with very strict hours and discipline. But that didn't really scare me. On the contrary, I was just afraid I wouldn't be able to reconcile family life and work, but I manage quite well if I organize myself.
Who has mentored you or been most influential in shaping your career?
All the people I have worked with have inspired me in my baking. But Mr. Ducasse remains the most inspirational for my new patisserie. No or very little sugar with taste in the center of everything. It has swept away my beliefs in terms of pastry and I am having more and more fun with my creations.
You were the first woman to win the coveted World’s Best Pastry Chef title, what did that feel like?
It was an amazing year for me, I was pregnant with my daughter and then this title came along and brightened up my life even more. A real chance and a real example that the difference in the vision of desserts pays off. I was very proud of my teams who accompanied me every day and of my chef Romain Meder who has supported me for the last 5 years in each of my creations. It was a real team effort, so a real team trophy too.
The Worlds Best Pastry Chef is awarded to innovative creators––previous winners included the renowned Pierre Hermé (2016), Dominique Ansel (2017), and Cédric Grolet (2018)––where do you draw your inspiration from?
Naturalité pastry is innovative in its own way. Being inspired by fruits, understanding them, getting the maximum taste and material from them, respecting them, and putting them forward is a different way of creating pastry. The inspiration is nature. It "is our garden" (quote from Yann Arthus Bertrand) and it is true. Herbs, plants, cereals, and fruits are all around us, we just have to respect them to get the best out of them.
How do you create such delicious and beautiful creations without using refined sugars?
I have developed different techniques to extract it naturally from the fruit. And of course, ripe fruit doesn't need added sugar. You just must enhance it and find the perfect balance so that it doesn't lack anything.
What was the most challenging part of creating an Afternoon Tea service? Was it intimidating to attempt this English tradition as a French woman?
In France, we don't have this tradition of afternoon tea. And for me, you don't touch the traditions of a country. As French pastry chefs, we have to respect it. So it's a real team effort. Each one of us used our London experience to try to respect the customs while bringing a touch of creativity and uniqueness.
Click here to read the full interview.
Book here to discover Jessica's Afternoon Tea: A Tribute to Nature