Chic Parisians as well as foreign visitors line up daily at Pierre Herm?'s pastry boutique on the Left Bank in Paris to sample the chef's latest unusual creation. Some recent examples: lychees and raspberries sandwiched between rose-flavored macaroons, which Herm? calls Ispahan, and a mixture of bananas, passion fruit, ginger, and hazelnuts in chocolate mousse called Arabella. With such confections, the 40-year-old chef is setting new standards in the world of French pastry. "I want to create a modern image of pastries, not the dated, sugary, rich desserts of the past," he says.
Herm? comes from a family of pastry chefs that goes back four generations. By the age of 14, he had decided that he wanted to do more than take over the family business in the eastern French town of Colmar. So he headed for the capital, where he was an apprentice to the legendary chef Gaston Len?tre. Within a decade, Herm? had become executive pastry chef for the renowned caterer Fauchon. Then, in 1997, he decided to strike out on his own, turning his name into an elite brand that last year brought in $5.8 million.
Besides two boutiques in Paris, Herm? also owns two in Tokyo. And his cookbooks are well known in the U.S. His message to pastry lovers worldwide: Bon appetit!