In general, firsts tend to be important: First impressions, first loves, first trips—and when it comes to food, this rule is no exception. Hence, the importance of breakfast, the first meal of the day. Just ask Karl Lagerfeld, who once ascertained, “The first thing I do when I get up, I have breakfast.” It’s a boost to the mood, it’s a boost to the metabolism, and in the land of Chanel and coco-chaud, no one does breakfast better than the French. The croissant, so famous in its inception that it can be found singularly around the world, stands sturdy as the Eiffel Tower as a flaky, buttery testament to how delicious that first meal of the day is in France. So whether you adore your petit déjeuner in bed, on the go, or at a restaurant, the magic of a pain au chocolat is undeniable. It’s time to rise and shine à la française! Below, famed pastry chef at Le Meurice and a Parisian to boot, Cédric Grolet, breaks down a few myths and shares his insider mouthwatering tips on everything breakfast, from chocolat chaud to gaufres au chocolat. Bonjour!
Is it true that every Parisian drinks coffee in the morning?
Well, it depends. I am Parisian and I never drink coffee in the morning since I am personally not a huge fan of coffee. But it is very true that in France, and above all, in Paris, a lot of people start their day with coffee.
What is the most popular type of coffee in Paris? Allongé? Espresso?
In my opinion, it’s espresso.
For non-coffee drinkers, what is your favorite breakfast beverage for gaining energy?
I like to mix it up. On the weekend, I love having a chocolat chaud—it reminds me a bit of my childhood and some very sweet memories. During the week, I like a fresh orange juice with some added-in ginger for a nice energy boost.
What is your favorite breakfast viennoiserie?
My favorite breakfast viennoiserie is the croissant. In fact, I am very attached to all of the classically French and Parisian viennoiseries—I love anything that has to do with croissants, pain au chocolat, pain aux raisins, brioche, rolls—all of that is extremely good.
What is your ideal breakfast?
A chocolat chaud with a fluffy croissant, and on the side an orange juice with ginger added in—give me that and I’m happy.
When it comes to the proper degustation of a croissant, what is the most Parisian way to go about things? Any Nutella involved? Jam? Au naturel?
Well, what I really love is to cut open a little croissant and eat it pur. When you eat a good-quality croissant, it is so good that you don’t even really need jam or anything else with it. In my opinion, using jam is more of a weekend delight.
Is a baguette more of a daily breakfast option?
Yes. The baguette is definitely classically French. The best way to eat it is to cut it in two, add some butter and jam—and a little chocolat chaud, too. It’s great.
What are the elements that make up a Parisian breakfast?
Well, it’s not only about what you are eating, but also about where you are eating. Ambience is always very important. Eating breakfast on a great terrace in Paris in the springtime or picnicking near the Tuileres—all of that results in a great moment spent. However, for Parisians, it usually depends on how much time we realistically have—that’s the ultimate deciding factor. If you have time on your hands, you can make crepes, some toast, and waffles, too.
What is your favorite boulangerie in Paris?
I love Frédéric Lalos’s boulangerie.
What is the prettiest place in Paris to eat breakfast in the spring?
A room at Le Meurice overlooking the Tuileries. Also, the section of the quai right near the Pont d’Alma.
What are healthy yet still very French alternatives to the croissant for breakfast?
You can do waffles with a nice fruit salad. Also, crepes without gluten.
Can you recommend a recipe for a spring-inspired breakfast?
I love a good smoothie with fresh fruit. You can add fresh strawberries for a strawberry juice base, add in an infusion of roquette, blend them together, and serve it cold for a very spring-oriented smoothie.
Can you recommend a few spring-inspired snacking options that are healthy, fruity, and floral?
Definitely tarte aux fraises basilic. Also tarte cerises estragon.
Who wins? The pain au chocolat or the croissant?
If I don’t have chocolat chaud, pain au chocolat will win. If I do have it, then croissant wins.
Orange juice or grapefruit juice?
I adore grapefruit juice. If I drink pure grapefruit juice in the morning, I’m in good shape for the next 10 hours of the day.
Yogurt or fromage blanc?
Favorite non-breakfast food to have at breakfast?
Poulet blanc—if I am very hungry. I love it.
Favorite non-breakfast pastry for breakfast?
All of it! In particular, I make a pastry called Le Citron. It has fresh lemon and mint inside. It’s a cake in the shape of a lemon. It’s super-fresh; it does you well!