French pastry chef Cedric Grolet is best known for his artistic trompe l’oeil desserts that resemble fruit, such as apples, melons and apricots, but don’t expect durian, the King of Fruit in Southeast Asia to appear on the menu when his debut patisserie in Asia opens on the first level of lifestyle complex COMO Orchard in September.
The social media sensation, who regularly rolls out Instagram videos of him concocting massive and whimsical sweet treats, tells The Peak: “Durian is a real topic of interest here! As Europeans, we find it difficult to work with this fruit, as it has a very strong taste and specific texture. I think it’s going to take me some time to be able to make a dessert that’s up to people’s expectations.”
Grolet, who was crowned The World’s Best Pastry Chef by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2018, reveals that his team understands the popularity of durian here and is working on a durian dessert. “I prefer to keep working and get as much feedback as possible on this fruit and this creation, which will enable me to learn and offer a top-of-the-range dessert,” he says.
While durian fans might have to wait for some time, Grolet will roll out a Singapore-exclusive trompe l’oeil fashioned after dragonfruit, which sports a vibrant red skin and sweet, seed-speckled fruit inside.
As Cedric Grolet Singapore opens in the lead-up to Mid-Autumn Festival, the chef will debut his take on mooncakes on his Singapore menu. On top of sandwiches and pastries such as croissants, flan and pain suisse, he will also roll out a new viennoiserie, almond croissant here. Like in his other shops in Paris and London, there will also be a Singapore-exclusive afternoon tea set.
Durian is a real topic of interest here! As Europeans, we find it difficult to work with this fruit, as it has a very strong taste and specific texture. I think it’s going to take me some time to be able to make a dessert that’s up to people’s expectations.Cedric Grolet, Pastry Chef
Eye on Singapore
Grolet shares with us he was adamant that his debut shop in Asia had to be in Singapore. He explains: “I had the chance to travel regularly to Singapore to conduct masterclasses. I find it a beautiful country with a structured environment. I was determined to open in Singapore before Japan or China.”
For him, it was an opportune fit to collaborate with Singapore-headquartered hospitality company COMO Group, which runs hotels, resorts and the Club21 fashion brand, among other businesses. COMO Orchard, which is located on Bideford Road in Tanglin, will also house the 156-room COMO Metropolitan Singapore, the group’s first hotel in its home country.
Grolet says: “We found the right location, the right hotel, the right person to work with, Madame Christina Ong (founder of the COMO Group), who trusts me and my teams, all of which enabled us to open in Singapore, even though I had other offers at the same time.”
He currently runs two eponymous boutiques in Paris and one in London, and looks set to expand further. He says: “Opening in Singapore will give us the opportunity to open in other countries in the future.” He also helms the pastry department at two-Michelin-starred Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse in the renowned Parisian hotel — a role that he has held since 2012.
Understanding Asians with a sweet-tooth like
With Asians’ preference for desserts that are not too sweet and those that have a mochi-like chewiness, how will the dessert maestro adapt his menu here?
Grolet shares that he is well-acquainted with the preferences of Asian customers, many of whom have visited his pastry shops in France and London. He has also been gathering feedback from the masterclasses that he has conducted across Asia over the past decade.
He explains: “The fact that our trompe l’oeil uses very little sugar, if any at all, is really where we want to be and where we are today. I know that my pastries are greatly appreciated, thanks to the interplay of textures and sugar dosages.”
Last month, Grolet was in Singapore to visit his team and oversee the construction of his shop, but he candidly shares that bringing back ingredients wasn’t top of his priority. He lets in: “I’m a human being who likes to bring back things other than ingredients, which can inspire me just as much.”
Besides enjoying various cultures, he adds: “I can bring back flowers, vases, jewellery, caps, pens, aromas, sneakers, clothes. I brought a lot of clothes back from Singapore — I love the brands there!”
“I haven’t brought back any specific ingredients for the moment, because I have them locally,
and I use them when I open my shop in Singapore,” he adds.
Every time I create a dessert, I’m not thinking about Instagram or TikTok. I’m thinking more about my customer who’s in front of the store and wants something simple, good, fresh, made in the moment. Today, social media has a real impact on our lives, but it doesn’t have a direct impact on my creativity.Cedric Grolet, Pastry Chef
Not all about social media
Despite having a massive social media following (He has over 8.1 million followers on Instagram), Grolet is adamant that social media has not changed his approach to creating desserts and sweets. Although he understands that having a strong and powerful visual is important to get the message across quickly and capture people’s attention.
He says: “Every time I create a dessert, I’m not thinking about Instagram or TikTok. I’m thinking more about my customer who’s in front of the store and wants something simple, good, fresh, made in the moment. Today, social media has a real impact on our lives, but it doesn’t have a direct impact on my creativity.”
Coming full circle
Feeling introspective, he views opening in Singapore as “coming full circle”, having tasted what’s available in the pastry market here (There are some very good things!, he shares).
He adds: “I think that in terms of technicality or approach to my products, I’m going to bring something new to the table compared to what I’ve been able to learn since I’ve been practising my profession, and above all, a new approach in terms of taste and power in my creations.”