For the last three years, the World’s Best Pastry Chef award has gone to a French man. This year, it’s a French woman who takes the cake.
On June 11, Jessica Préalpato was announced as the World’s Best Pastry Chef 2019. She’s the first woman to receive this prestigious title, awarded by World’s 50 Best Restaurants. (An important distinction worth making, Christelle Brua was the first woman to win Best Restaurant Pastry Chef in the World 2018, awarded by the Grandes Tables du Monde.)
Previous winners of the World’s Best Pastry Chef award have included Pierre Hermé (2016), Dominique Ansel (2017), and Cédric Grolet (2018). Chefs, food journalists, and experts and amateurs in culinary arts voted to award her the title.
Préalpato has worked as head pastry chef at Alain Ducasse in the Plaza Athénée hotel in Paris for the last three and a half years. Like previous winners, Préalpato is notable for innovating a new kind of pastry.
Her desserts almost always have only a few ingredients, many of which are found in nature and are unexpected to be found in pastries in the absence of chocolate, coffee or cream. Yet Préalpato hardly uses any of those usual ingredients. Right now among her desserts offered at Alain Ducasse, you’ll find lemon served with kombu seaweed with terragon, roasted citrus with a honey vinaigrette and crispy grains, peanuts with soymilk, Ducasse chocolate with toasted cereals and Sichuan berries, and several other treats.
Locally sourced ingredients are emphasized, and the origins are listed on the menu. Lemon from Nice, peanuts from Hautes-Pyréenées, chocolate made by Alain Ducasse, strawberries from Pernes-les-Fontaines…
Her creations rely on a concept called “desseralité.” “Desseralité is a mixture of dessert and naturalité,” explains Préalpato in an interview with 50 Best. Naturalité, an underpinning principle in Ducasse’s cooking, is the indication that something belongs to nature, its naturalness. In his recipes, Ducasse aims to maintain the inherent properties and flavors of ingredients, and simply “interpret nature’s generosity” in his food. Préalpato takes this principle and applies it to dessert (desseralité), the idea being that you can make a dessert with the natural flavors and sweetness of ingredients. (Her book about it, “Desseralité,” was released last November.)
Préalpato’s commitment to desseralité is apparent on her Instagram, where, like many chefs in the social media era, she posts about her craft. But in lieu of images of mouth-watering final creations about to be served, her feed is instead a mosaic of fresh produce, natural ingredient tastings, and shout-outs to local producers.
This prize of World’s Best Pastry Chef, she believes, is for this new style of pastry. “The pastry of naturalité proves that without lots of dough, mousse, creams or sugar, it is possible to make delicious desserts,” she explains.
The move toward lighter pastries aligns with the recent healthy living movement growing in France. As the French become more health-conscious — working out more, eating vegan, abstaining from daily bread consumption — so too must their desserts, if they don’t want to sacrifice them completely. Adhering to the principle of desseralité results in healthier pastries that use two of the things the French love most: locally sourced ingredients and fresh produce.
Préalpato will receive her prize at an official ceremony at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore on June 25.