“It’s more than just creating beautiful pastries – it’s also about creating a real story about the dessert.”
The Wordrobe talks pastry, perseverance and the importance of storytelling with Jessica Préalpato, pastry chef at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée restaurant and recent World’s Best Pastry Chef 2019 winner
What inspired you to become a pastry chef?
At the beginning, all I wanted was to work in the kitchen as I liked and admired the instinctive approach of cooks.
Then, the ‘sweet’ element caught me and I discovered the fascinating word of pastry ! The amazing encounters I have had with top inspirational chefs (including Frédéric Vardon and Alain Ducasse) then allowed me to flourish in the world of pastry.
Where did you train? Tell us more about your culinary background..
I was fortunate enough that my first experiences were with starred chefs like Philippe Labbé (La Chèvre d’Or, Eze) Philippe Etchesbest (Hostellerie de Plaisance, Saint-Emillion) and Philippe Ibarboure (La table des frères Ibarboure, Bidart).
Afterwards, I then went to Paris and met Frédéric Vardon, who is a compassionate and admirable chef who taught me a lot about pastry and made me aware of the value of French products.
I then wanted to advance my pastry skills further and he introduced me to Alain Ducasse. That is when I discovered ‘Naturalness’.
What does it take to become the ‘World’s Best Pastry Chef’?
The image and the message that we carry is more important now than ever and it’s more than just creating beautiful pastries – it’s also about creating a real story about the dessert.
This is something I hope young pastry chefs to be more concerned with – French products, the milks, fruits, cream etc… to make help create the story.
What’s your favourite summer dessert?
Peaches be it roasted, barbecued or fresh and seasoned with olive oil.
That, plus vanilla ice cream and cereal granola… so delicious.
Describe your cooking style in three words.
Pastry that are based on the seasonal products. I look to enhance the natural flavours of products, to bring out the natural sugars and acidity in them, as well as creating something with an original touch.
Do you have any role models?
Chef Romain Meder, head chef at Alain Ducasse at Hotel Plaza Athenee. He helps me regularly with the dessert creation and has an advance vision on Nordic-inspired cuisine.
What does hospitality mean to you?
For me, hospitality is the convivial side of a table – on which there is also sharing dishes, laughter and good wine of course!
Name three of your top restaurants.
1 Ledoyen, Yannick Alléno, Paris
2 L’Osteria Francesana, Massimo Bottura, Modène
3 Rozo, Diego Delbecq, Lille
What advice would you offer to aspiring chefs?
We must go after what we believe and always try to innovate. Do not restrict yourself or your techniques.
What’s next on the cards?
Firstly – welcome my daughter to the world (!) and then to continue to develop the Naturalness with Alain Ducasse.
Finally… what’s your favourite midnight snack?
Mint chocolate ice cream!