Following a Decadent Dream…To Playa
39-year-old Céline Genevois has always had a passion for pastry. Born in the Jura Mountains in the east of France, Genevois spent years working in human resources before she finally followed her heart and devoted her life and career to the culinary.
Chez Céline, the shop she opened in Playa del Carmen, brings a little taste of France to the Mexican shore. The shop offers breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner. Whether you’re in the mood for croques-monsieur, quiche, cheese plates, or éclairs, you can count on Céline for something delicious—and made with love. She spoke to us about opening her own shop, what makes a good pastry, and the biggest surprise upon moving to town.
Describe your path to Playa del Carmen and to opening your own shop.
I worked in Human Resources until I turned 30. After living in Paris, the south of France, and Amsterdam, my husband (also French) and I decided to quit everything and travel the world for one year. Our main goal was to discover the cuisine of every country we visited because we love cooking, eating, and drinking good wine. I have a passion for pastry—my grandmother taught me everything when I was a kid and she still gives me tips and recipes now at 90 years old. During our trip, we found out that in every touristic city, as small as it could be, there was always a French cafeteria or bakery that was having great success.
At the end of our trip, it was just impossible to return to normal life and we decided to try to turn our passion into a living. We attended a fulltime cooking school in Buenos Aires for eight months and learned Spanish at the same time. We met a Mexican guy, became friends, and ended up in Playa del Carmen with him, opening our French bakery Chez Céline six years ago.
We have since then opened three more bakeries in Cancún named Café Antoinette.
What were some of the biggest surprises upon joining the community in Playa del Carmen?
Arriving in Playa del Carmen, we didn’t have much time to enjoy the city because we immediately started to prepare the opening of the bakery. My husband specializes in breads and I specialize in pastries. We made all the recipes at home first. Once we opened the bakery, we made the breads and pastries ourselves for the first few months.
After we opened the bakery, the biggest surprise we found here in Playa was the laid-back attitude. Nothing is really important or urgent here. Everyone takes their time and people are happy like this. No stress like in big cities!
The adaptation was quite hard because we wanted to make things right and perfect all time, but here we found out that it was just impossible. And as they all say in Playa: “no pasa nada!”
What makes a great pastry?
A great pastry activates your senses. It should be love at first sight. It starts with the look, the color, and the decoration of a pastry. After the smell, it is the taste. A great pastry should be well balanced between sweetness and acidity. The perfect example in Chez Céline is our lemon tart. The lemon cream is rather acid if you eat it alone, but then, combined with the sweet meringue, it becomes perfectly balanced. A great pastry should never be too sweet. Sugar is not a flavor. Fruits, dark chocolate, nuts, and herbs are flavors.
When you’re not at work, what are your favorite activities / spots around Playa del Carmen?
When I’m not at work I dedicate myself to two different hobbies. The first one is making pastries at home! I know it sounds crazy, but I also love making the pastries of my childhood and most of the time they are very simple ones, very homemade style, with no particular decoration. These remind me of a lot of emotions and love from my family.
Last week I made a “flan aux œufs.” I think the translation is just “flan” or “crème caramel.” There is no recipe as easy as this one, but it makes me travel back to France and to my grandmother’s kitchen.
My second hobby is playing the piano. I love music. I love singing, and playing the piano helps me disconnect from the real world.
When I have time, I go to Tulum to enjoy those white sand beaches and see the crystal clear Caribbean Sea.