Cedric Grolet S'pore head chef moved here with family, now loves fried rice & roast duck

Passion with a capital P.

Lee Wei Lin | Celeste Ng | July 10, 2024, 11:56 AM

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Working a nine-to-five might be the reality most Singaporeans are familiar with, with overtime being something only grumbled about occasionally.

But for the chefs at Cedric Grolet Singapore, “overtime” might just be non-existent in their vocabulary.

Named after the celebrity chef by whom it is founded, the Parisian patisserie has roused quite the hype since it first opened its doors last September.

When Mothership visited one Thursday afternoon, we spoke to the café’s head chef Diego Alonso, accompanied by their operations manager, Raphael.

Raphael (left) and Alonso (right). Photo by Livia Soh.

The two men were part of the team who uprooted their lives in Paris and relocated to Singapore for the brand’s opening here.

This may have been a difficult decision for many, but Alonso and Raphael deem it a worthy sacrifice.

Did it for the brand

While Raphael moved to Singapore alone, Alonso came with his family.

"It was, and is, a challenge," the head chef mused. "My wife works with [Cedric Grolet as well]. This [was] one [step] we decided to take with the family, for this brand."

In contrast, it was less difficult for Raphael, who came alone, to decide whether or not to move.

"My family [is] my workmates," he told us endearingly, "so it was really nice [moving] from Paris to Singapore with Diego, as we already know each other."

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They both, however, agree that it's been easy adapting to life in Singapore - in Raphael's words, it's been an "easy expatriation".

"Singapore is very safe, everything works so well. Maybe the weather is a bit challenging, but the food scene [is] excellent."

When asked which local foods they're loving most thus far, the two Parisians agreed: fried rice, with roasted duck and wonton mee being honorary mentions.

First shift starts at 2am

It might be hard for the average office worker to imagine starting work at two in the morning, but this is a reality for head chef Alonso.

"I'm available for any problem, all the time," he humbly remarked.

Photo by Livia Soh.

The patisserie opens daily at 8:30am sharp, so the rest of the team typically come in around 7:30am to prepare for opening.

The store closes at 6pm.

"After 6pm, we reply to all the emails [and report] to Paris," Raphael elaborated. "We are [always] in [contact] with our [head] in Paris. They can reach us whenever they need [to], and we can reach them as well."

This surprised us - what about the difference in timezones?

The two nod at this, smiling:

"Actually, this is very challenging. That's why [we usually call them at] night, because [Paris is] six hours [behind]. So even when we're done with the day, we still have to [text] and [call] the headquarters in Paris.

But this is okay. This is our position and we are happy to do it."

Adapting to the local flavour

For every country in which it makes its mark, the patisserie strives to adapt their pastries to what Alonso calls "the taste of the local[s]".

"You can find here in Singapore, [creations different from those] in Europe, Paris, London," Alonso proudly told us.

Items exclusive to our island include the patisserie's recent creation, Mango Sticky Rice.

Photo by Livia Soh.

Cedric Grolet's menu rotates every two months, so we were curious: how long does the process of innovating new pastries take, given the team has to come up with Singapore-exclusive items as well?

To this, Alonso explained:

"Little by little, [the] more we stay here in Singapore, [the more] we can understand what the guests want, and what the chef wants to offer to our guests. It's a mix of the two culture[s].

All the products are validated by Cedric Grolet. All the products are created by Cedric Grolet. We do only what the Chef want[s], but really, the mind [behind] all of the products is Cedric Grolet. We are the hands.

Only the Chef can give the touch of Cedric Grolet. It's only him."

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Top photos by Livia Soh