Chef Jessica Préalpato set to spread sweetness at French pavilion - GulfToday

Chef Jessica Préalpato set to spread sweetness at French pavilion


Chef Jessica Prealpato. Photo: Mathieu Delmestre

Shereen Afifi

“I’m probably the only American I know in Paris who thinks shopping for food is as much fun as buying a dress,” said chef Julia Child (1912-2004) (played by Meryl Streep) in biographical 2009 movie  (Julie & Julia).

That tells how American chef Julia Child fell in love with French cooking when she lived in France.

Actually, French cuisine especially pastries are world-famous and inspiring to many. Chef Jessica Préalpato of France and winner of the World’s Best Pastry Chef” at the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards in 2019 and ambassador for the France Pavilion at Expo 2020 is visiting Dubai.

She had a conference at Alliance Francaise Dubai, where she talked to Gulf Today about adopting the concept of natural pastries, Ingredients she uses, her impressions of local food, and food one shouldn’t miss trying in France.

How and when did you start your career as a pastry chef?

First I wanted to be a specialist psychologist for children. So I did a Bachelor’s degree in literature.
But my father, a pastry baker, convinced me to do a manual trade with more opportunities. I studied at the hotel school in Biarritz. I did my first internships in the kitchen. But I soon realised that the pastry chef attracted me more. I did internships in Michelin-starred restaurants.

Tell us about your book ‘Desseralité’ and how you make delicious deserts with less sugar.

I only use natural products like seasonal fruits, brown sugar, olives, natural spices and all supplements of natural sugar with a lot of technique. I prefer seasonal fruits in recipes, because our body metabolism is linked to seasons. For example, in summer you need sugar and water, so I use strawberries, apricot, peach, watermelon and tomato. In winter you need a lot of vitamins, so I opt for orange, kaki. I rarely use pastry or puff pastry. Sometimes I use chocolate but it is not my favourite.

Are you planning to introduce the English or Arabic version of your book ‘Desseralité’?

I wish! Stay tuned.
What’s your favourite dessert?

My favourite dessert is strawberry tart, made with fresh strawberries. And I eat it once a week.
Have you tried using some exotic ingredients in your recipes?I didn’t try in France because we just use local products, but at the French pavilion of the upcoming Expo 2020 in Dubai, I will use local and regional natural products of the UAE like dates, date syrup, spices like saffron for desserts.

Have you ever been to Dubai or any Arab country?

This is my second time in Dubai, and the first time in an Arab country.

Have you tried any local or Arab food in the UAE? If so what is your impression?

I had the incredible chance to meet an Emirati who cooked several local pastries, and liked specifically the local and regional products composing all the desserts such as spices (cardamom, saffron), dates, etc. I really loved Betheeth and Khanfaroosh; these desserts will – for sure – inspire me in creating the future dessert signature of the France Pavilion! Also I loved Fattouch from Lebanese cuisine.

If someone is visiting France, what is the food he shouldn’t miss trying?

Well, every region has its own character. I am from southwest of France so you there you have to taste Pipérade, it’s based on peppers, eggs. For dessert, you have to try basque cake. Also ducks are very special made for foie gras (a speciality food product made of the liver of a duck or goose). The duck is also used as a roasted duck.

Is there any place you look forward to visit in the UAE or in the world?

I heard a lot about Louvre Abu Dhabi. Also, I’d love to see local organic farms and how they manage to grow tomato or peppers in the desert. Other places I love to travel in the world is India to explore spices, spiritual atmosphere, and Indian culture.

How do you picture your involvement as the Ambassador of the France Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai?

I was honoured to be asked by Emmanuel Macron, the President of the French Republic, to be the France Pavilion’s Ambassador. I want to honour French gastronomy today, which is increasingly focused on eating better and respecting nature.

Related articles