French chocolate is justifiably celebrated, and Jacques Genin sits happily in its uppermost echelons. His chocolates are exceptionally good, with fine and even enrobing, and sensitive use of different couverture depending on the recipe. He is at the top of his game, and yet, unlike his peers in French chocolate, M. Genin does not have formal training. His pâtisserie skills began with a personal quest to make the best possible birthday cakes for his daughter. Another point of difference is that he is obsessed with the freshness of his ingredients. Drawing the most flavor from his ingredients, respecting and balancing them, is his skill, and it is evident as soon as you eat his chocolates.
He has little regard, and not a little disdain, for marketing and branding. His packaging and boutique are beautiful and of the highest quality. But he will not compromise his vision to grow his brand if that means time away from his kitchen, or adapting recipes away from his exacting standards in order to facilitate a commercial project. He supplies some of the best restaurants and hotels in France, but he will not bow to others requirements if they compromise his.
What this means is that you really have to make the pilgrimage to his boutique if you want to try his chocolates for yourself. If you are serious about tasting French chocolate, it is well worth the visit.
Jacques Genin’s boutique/café in the 3rd Arrondissement is bright and airy and calm. The location, with its double-height ceiling and pale color scheme, was renovated four years ago by M. Genin in what used to be an old magazine works. It is the perfect environment in which to relax and focus on the chocolates. You can sit and order your own selection from the extensive array and have a proper degustation. Tea, which has its own wonderfully descriptive menu, is supplied by la Maison des Trois Thés and is worth the visit alone. On a previous visit I had sampled the Pu-erh, a bosky, smoke-filled delight. My hot chocolate on the occasion of my rendezvous with M. Genin was chosen for me by him. I wouldn’t argue with his choice of Venezuelan; it was rich, smooth, intense and fruity in flavor, divine.
Jacques Genin, with the intense gaze of the passionate workaholic purist, was a formidable tasting companion, and I felt both the pressure and the honor of being treated to his time and his chocolates. Together we tasted a dark chocolate coconut ganache, the nutty sweetness of the coconut sneaking out to fill the mouth after the fine and fruity cacao had already impressed. A milk chocolate praline foxed me, and had me searching to put my finger on the fruit it was enhanced by. By adding lemon to a praline, a context in which you would not normally expect it, M. Genin had captured all its flavor, but mellowed its acidity. It was so balanced with the sweet smoothness of the nutty praline that it really was a new flavor for me, redolent of peach or nectarine more than lemon, and quite delicious.
Jacques Genin’s recipes are intriguing and delicious, and in the tradition of French chocolate, they are refined and work within a subtle and deeply pleasing range of tastes. And yet he is an innovator, because his recipes do surprise with startling freshness, and are just much better than so much else you will have tasted.
M. Genin is also famous for his caramels. They are softer, sweeter, more delicate, more full flavored than I have tasted before. Like all that comes out of his kitchen, I would travel from afar for these, and it would be well worth the trip!
In sum, this is an elegant café where a chocolate genius is busy producing chocolates, caramel, nougat and all manner of heavenly treats of the highest quality.
133, rue de Turenne , in the 3rd Arrondissement. 01 45 77 29 01.
Tues–Sun, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.; Sat, 11 a.m.–8 p.m.
Masters of French chocolate
Editor’s note: Enjoy the GG2P pastry and chocolate trip of Paris! It’s downloadable and DIY, so you can be a tripist without looking like one!