Inventor of guilt-free desserts is world's top pastry chef

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French pastry chief Jessica Prealpato of the Plaza Athenee hotel poses in her restaurant's kitchen for a portrait in Paris. — AFP

PARIS — Her desserts are often not at all sweet and she couldn't give a fig if people complain that they don't look great on Instagram.

But that did not stop Jessica Prealpato being named the best pastry chef on the planet Tuesday by the World's 50 Best Restaurants ranking.

The 32-year-old French woman, who is about to have her first child, is the creator of a whole new genre of guilt-free patisserie.

For Prealpato it is not about how a dessert looks, it's how it tastes -- and the feelgood glow afterwards.

The subtle and sublime creations she turns out at the three-star Michelin restaurant of the Plaza Athenee hotel in Paris are a rebuff to the sugar-rush burn of food porn.

Yet even she has not dared to have her father -- a patissier forged in full-on sugar worship of French tradition -- taste her creations that match strawberries with pine shoots and lemon with seaweed.

"He would not understand what I do at all," she told AFP.

Prealpato has eschewed the sugar high to go for what her boss at the Plaza Athenee, the French superchef Alain Ducasse, calls "naturalité" -- or naturalness -- bringing out the full range of flavors that an ingredient already has.

What Prealpato also does is use ingredients that would never normally make it onto a dessert trolley.

"We shake people up," Prealpato laughed.

She has already produced a book of 50 of her desserts called "Desséralité", including her "All Rhubarb", where the often astringent plant is served roasted, raw, fermented, grilled and poached.

"I love to use vinegars and try every style of cooking so that I get the most flavors out of a product," said Prealpato, one of a tiny number of female patisserie chefs working in three-star restaurants.

Some of her peers have criticized her for the unfussy way she presents her food, claiming that it is not sophisticated enough for such an upscale establishment.

And four years ago when she was starting out at Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athenee she said that the famed chef left her in tears when he refused to taste one of her first fruit-based desserts.

"I can see why now," she said.

"I had presented it like a patisserie chef usually would, with lots of mousse, cream and a tuile.

"For him, a dessert didn't have to be about these things."

So Prealpato "took everything away... today I rarely ever work with chocolate or coffee."

Instead her desserts play with sourness and acidity, and she uses sugar as others would salt -- for seasoning.

"I understand why some clients may not like that," she said.

Initially hurt by such negative feedback, Prealpato has become used to it.

It also makes being crowned the world's best pastry chef all the more sweet.

"I am amazed. It's enormous for me. I never would have guessed that my patisseries would go that far." — Reuters


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