Many of the best restaurants in the world have traditionally had male-dominated kitchens, but this is slowly changing, and it’s thanks in part to the work of women like Jessica Préalpato.
Préalpato has just been voted The World’s Best Pastry Chef 2019 – an impressive accolade made even more so by the fact she’s the first woman in the award’s history to achieve it.
The award comes as part of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019, a ceremony known as the Oscars of food, which will take place on Tuesday, June 25 in Singapore.
Préalpato is the head pastry chef at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée in Paris – an iconic French restaurant in a luxury hotel, which is no slouch itself – it was number 21 on the list of best restaurants last year.
Even though Préalpato grew up in a family of pastry chefs (she’s the daughter of two), her route to the kitchen of Plaza Athénée wasn’t a direct one. She initially went to university to study psychology, but soon realised she wanted to dedicate her life to desserts.
On her award, the chef said: "It is an absolute honour to be recognised as The World’s Best Pastry Chef. As the daughter of two pastry chefs, I have been immersed in the world of culinary arts my entire life. This award represents my life journey and the passion I have for this art. I hope this award inspires emerging pastry chefs around the world."
After settling on a career creating pastry, Préalpato worked all over France and built up her skills and knowledge travelling to places like Tokyo and Beirut.
She joined the Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée in November 2015, and has become known for specialising in natural desserts – ones that feature less sugar and fat, without compromising on taste. She coined the term ‘desseralité’, which puts together the words ‘dessert’ and ‘naturalité’ – really summing up her style in the kitchen. She’s also had a book of fruit-based desserts published under the term.
Préalpato is very much a modern pastry chef, whose dishes have an emphasis on healthier eating and highlight French produce. Don’t expect heavy, creamy desserts, but light, fresh flavours that won’t leave you feeling heavy or lethargic.
Instead of spending time on ‘Instagrammable’ presentation, Préalpato says she gravitates towards a more raw way of plating up, that focuses on showcasing the ingredients – which, as you can probably tell, doesn’t mean they look any less delicious.
Préalpato is the first woman to join the auspicious ranks of the world’s top-rated pastry chefs including Cédric Grolet and Dominique Ansel, who you will probably best know for his work trademarking the croissant-doughnut hybrid, the cronut.