top of page

Who Makes the Best Pastry in Paris?

In the weeks leading up to Christmas in Paris, all is fair in love and pastry.

In late October, Cédric Grolet—the photogenic and bemedaled Paris pastry chef—posted a snapshot on Instagram of himself holding an enormous St. Honoré cake. Likes: 76,522. On the same day, Cyril Lignac—an equally camera-ready and celebrated Paris chef—posted a closeup of a mille-feuille on Instagram. Likes: 30,632. Meanwhile, over on the official account of Pierre Hermé—at 60 years old the paterfamilias of French pastry—vivid green pistachio macarons. Likes: 11,950 and counting.

Paris has well over a thousand pâtisseries, and the vast majority are good, if not excellent. But in every generation, a handful of pâtissiers rise to the top.

Louis-Ernest Ladurée (1836–1904), Auguste Fauchon (1856–1939), and Gaston Lenôtre (1920–2009) remain, even now, household names. Jostling at the pinnacle of the pyramid today, ­Grolet, Lignac, and Hermé are joined by Philippe Conticini, Yann Couvreur, Jean-Paul Hévin, Christophe Michalak, and François ­Perret. (Yes, they’re still all men, though that’s changing.) Each has his own well-appointed shop. A few, such as Hermé, preside over small empires—with outposts in London and Tokyo. Some, such as Michalak, star in exceedingly popular television shows.

But while the styles and business approaches of these culinary stars vary, they have embraced social media with a unanimous fervor. Their followers number in the millions, which has made a competition international that was long intramural, and in the process—some complain—transformed a centuries-old tradition.