© Regine Datin
Nancy Passions Sucrées

Maison des Sœurs Macaron

Conversation with Nicolas Génot – Artisan confectioner

 

Nicolas Génot of the Maison des Sœurs Macarons followed a relevant, yet original career path in the trade. Born into a famous family of pastry chefs and confectioners in Nancy, he wanted to take over the helm, but chose to first study business. His father, a confectioner, had the opportunity to buy the famous Maison des Sœurs Macarons in 1991. Nicolas naturally took over the shop with his wife in 2000. He is now the guardian of the secret recipe for the Soeurs Macarons, and he trusts only himself to make them. He’s partnered with small growers of almonds in Provence to ensure the sustainability of the recipe’s essential product. Nicolas Génot is the perfect combination of a passionate craftsman and a savvy business manager.

The Maison des Sœurs Macarons shop has been on Rue Gambetta since 1850. It was originally at 10 Rue des Sœurs Macarons, where the nuns took refuge after being expelled from their convent.

 

NANCY PASSIONS SUCRÉES SPECIALITIES

  • Sœurs Macarons
  • Pain de Gênes
  • Mirabelle Cake
  • Florentine
  • Perles de Lorraine

“We don’t reinvent anything here. We keep it authentic. We want to pass on this heritage, so we’re not going to change it. We strive to preserve culture.”

 

Why did you choose this profession and what was most appealing to you?

I’m the son of pastry chefs, my parents ran a pastry shop for 20 years on Rue Saint-Dizier. I went to business school, and then I worked for more than 10 years in a large agri-food company where I held several different positions. Later, my wife and I reflected on the next step. We felt a real family responsibility to be able to keep this company and its family spirit alive. I couldn’t hope for a better teacher than my father, so he trained me on the job. I had the best teacher I could have imagined.

 

How did you learn your skills?

From my father directly, and then also, being the eldest in the family, I was rather intuitive when it came to pastry-making since I had grown up watching my father work and make things every day. After that, the logic of it all and everything else came back without thinking. Then, there was the practical work of learning all there is about making macaroons.

 

How long did it take you to perfect your craft?

Macarons: one year. I had taken a leave of absence from my previous job to start a business, and so for a year, my father and I worked together to teach me the Macaron recipe.

Pain de Gênes: my workers and my apprentices make everything else: chocolates, confections, Florentines, etc.

Overall, it’s the heritage that brings the most value, the recipes are at the heart of everything. Here, I put my father’s recipes in the spotlight every day. We’ve also since developed our own recipes, including the Pain de Gênes, a house creation.

Mirabelle Cake: this was created by the Union of Pastry Experts of Lorraine. They’ve allowed me to showcase it at our shop, but the recipe was a collective effort.

 

 

What has experience taught you? Do you bring a personal touch to your work?

Macaron: no personal touches, it’s a recipe that was bequeathed to us, so it’s set in stone.

Why would we change a recipe that has been recognised as extraordinary throughout the generations? The Macaron spans generations. Naturally, we’ve had a bit of pressure from customers to flavour ours like the Parisian macaroons. In some way, we’re the guardians of Nancy’s heritage. The Macaron has been registered since 1793. We inherited a simple, natural recipe. We definitely don’t want to change a thing, so no personal touches there.

We bring our personal touch to other products such as our cakes, Pain de Gênes with bergamot (to expand our range of bergamot products), mirabelle cake, etc. We created chocolates with Macaron/mirabelle and bergamot. That’s our personal touch, on our other products. Through the three products that reign over our store: Macarons, mirabelle and bergamot. Our personal touch is on these three products. We start with a cake recipe and then we say, “hmm, one with bergamot, another with mirabelle…”

Perle de Lorraine: it was my father’s creation. It’s also set in stone, we don’t touch the recipe. We’re pretty much unique, no one else makes it, and it’s a really distinctive. It’s our shop’s flagship product.

Florentine: it’s a specialty of Nancy. So here, we make it our own way, a bit how everyone does with eclairs. After that it is up to the tastes of the customer to choose one or the other.

 

What has experience taught you?

To stay true to what we know how to do and to the desire to share these flavours. We keep these local recipes of Nancy’s heritage alive, recipes that highlight the three main products: Macarons, mirabelles and bergamots, which are a part of the spirit of the locals. And in different ways, because everyone’s tastes are different. Take for example the mirabelle, you can have the fruit in syrup, or with the Perle you can have it a fruit paste. We don’t reinvent anything here. We keep it authentic. We want to pass on this heritage, so we’re not going to change it. We strive to preserve culture.

 

 

Who do you want to pass on your expertise to? And how do you plan to do it?

Macaron: this will be the responsibility of the generation that follows. I have a son and a daughter, so we’ll see. It hasn’t yet been decided for now, but we still have a few years to think about it. That’s for the Macaron, because it’s now a family recipe.

Perle de Lorraine and the cakes: it’s the same for these products, everything will depend on who will take over when I leave. It’s different if it is one of my children, there’s a family spirit that will carry on. If it’s another family, there may be another way of seeing things.

The question remains to be answered. It would be nice if my family kept it going. To take over this shop today, you really have to be passionate, you have to keep the house values alive. It’s certainly easier to do it with my family than to have another family come in. We’ll see.

 

Any tips for tasting?

I’ll tell you about the Macarons. It is a cake that keeps better than most, but it’s the weather that decides if it’s more or less soft or hard.

When Macarons are cold, they harden. They soften when they come back to room temperature. But if the atmosphere is dry, like in the winter when it’s cold and dry, they’ll stay hard, but as long as they’re hard, no worries, they’ll keep. That’s why we tell people to put them in the refrigerator. Because with a dry cake, you might automatically store them in a cupboard or pantry. And when the surroundings are dry, they can dry out, because they need humidity.

In the summer, if there’s too much humidity, then the Macaron can become a complete sponge.

Since they’re made with only natural ingredients, they will inevitably be affected by the surrounding atmosphere. It’s really the Macaron that decides when it should be eaten, rather than the person. The eater has to be patient (laugh).

We obviously put the different ways of eating them on the box.

Sitting them atop your cup of tea or coffee works very well. Especially with coffee, because the coffee steam adds a little something extra.

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