Just before COVID, I did a trip around Europe, following the trail of chocolate and, more specifically, hot chocolate. I went through Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, France, and Spain and had…well…a lot of hot chocolates. This was my very last hot chocolate of that trip (number 45 according to my notebook). We made a last-minute decision to stop by on our way to the airport to catch our flight back home.
What a way to finish. Hidden in the Marais, one of my favourite parts of Paris, his boutique is stunning. Bright and airy, with windows on three sides, the inside is a mix of white marble, wood, bricks, metal, and plaster. It’s a modern space housed in a historic building that combines the new and old beautifully. Today there are huge bouquets of birds of paradise and lilies arranged near the front doors. A line of glass display cases look like they could contain precious jewels and they do, but of the chocolate kind. There is a circular staircase that goes up to the next level. That is where the chocolatiers are doing their magic. Every once in a while, someone comes down the stairs holding a tray of finished products to add to the display. Nothing is out of place. Everything is perfect.
Jacques Genin is considered to be one of the top chocolatiers in France, but he isn’t qualified as a chocolatier under the French system. He is self-taught, not that that has slowed him down at all. Genin didn’t start out in chocolate but slowly arrived there, first as the owner of restaurants, then working with pastry at Maison du Chocolate and then, finally, choosing to focus on chocolate himself. Today he supplies many of the top hotels in Paris and beyond.
There are not a lot of tables to sit on in this space which is nice. Few are sitting for the hot chocolate. Most come through to buy their daily dose of treats (at least that is what I would do). While he used to be famous for his pastries, today customers come in for three things it seems. First, his caramels are obviously the obsession of many. I don’t like caramels, but I like these caramels. Flavoured with salt, vanilla, chocolate, honey, ginger, coffee, pistachio, almond, hazelnut or with fruits such as mango, passionfruit, raspberry, large piles are laid out for customers to choose from. Second are his pate de fruits. We order the kiwi and the raspberry and are amazed at how cleanly the flavours come through, almost to the point of convincing us that this sugar candy must indeed be healthy (an apple a day kind of healthy).
Our favourite for the day though were his chocolates. He uses Valrhona chocolate sourced from Madagascar with bright and fruity flavour profile. The focus is on making all their products by hand because he believes that if you make too much of a product, enough that you can’t make it by hand using artisanal techniques, you can lose the quality. The Basilic Instint, a dark ganache with basil is incredible. I couldn’t believe it. The basil tasted like it has been freshly picked just then and put into this chocolate. It lingered beautifully and I would happily have it again and again and again.
The hot chocolate was rich and smooth, a decadent hot chocolate made with dark Valrhona. Simple and elegant.
Verdict: Without realising it, we saved the best for last. Jacques Genin, 133 Rue de Turenne, 75003, Paris, France