Stepping into Geneva Crepe Café Bistro evokes my more savoury memories of French cuisine. Although I may not be able to find a crepe as cheap as five euros or an authentic Nicoise salad while living in the Limestone City, Geneva is a great alternative to a trip across the Atlantic.
One of the biggest intrigues has been the adoption of locally sourced food by many restaurants, including Geneva Crepe Café Bistro. The owner, Genevieve Patenaude, adds that the smoked salmon in my crepe came from the BC coast.
Since the creperie’s opening in August 2010, each crepe is made fresh to order, and the most important part of any meal – the ingredients, especially the produce – are handpicked by Patenaude herself.
For someone with no prior restaurant experience, the fact that Geneva Crepe Café has won a 2013 certificate of excellence from Trip Advisor comes as both a shock and a source of pride for Patenaude. I decided to sit down with Patenaude to hear about the origin of her signature dishes and how her creperie has been thriving in Kingston:
Q: Where are you originally from? How did that factor into your cooking?
A: I’m originally from Ottawa. I’m French-Canadian. It was my neighbour who was a French pastry chef … and him and his wife would look after all the kids in my family while my parents would travel. I asked him for the recipe when I was really little… It’s always been a passion of mine, never thought it would turn into a business opportunity. I wish I would have thought of that when I was 20 years old, but [it’s] never too late – so that’s how it started.
Q: Why did you choose to open a Creperie in Kingston, and not Ottawa?
A: I’ve been in Kingston 20 years come this summer – so Kingston is my hometown now. My kids are here; I wouldn’t relocate. Kingston was the only choice, as far as city location.
Q: Why did you choose a creperie?
A: I always enjoyed cooking a lot and crepes was something that was my specialty growing up. I was taught when I was very little by a French chef … how to make crepes [among] other things and I always made it for my friends and family. When I was looking into opening my own business then we thought … the sky’s the limit; you can [make crepes] savoury or sweet and [with] different flavours. I just decided to go for it and it’s been a success.
Q: Why did you choose this location? How has it been received?
A: Well, there are no creperies in Kingston. Even though we have a lot of restaurants, I thought it would be a niche market and it turned out that it’s very niche and people really like it. We figured this location is good because it’s close to Queen’s campus so we would draw the students and then there are not a lot of restaurants up here so we’re also catching the lunch business crowd and then the tourists manage to find us here in the summer. We didn’t think they would, but they do – so we’re busy all year round.
Q: Prior to working at Geneva Crepe, does your staff have prior knowledge about crepes?
A: I train all my staff because [making crepes] isn’t something you learn in school really… It’s more of a trade. Once you know how to make them, it’s about the different combinations.
Q: What are your signature crepes?
A: The savoury one is called the Bombay and the Bombay is local chicken and then it’s kind of a chicken salad rolled into a crepe – so there’s chicken, fresh apple, dried cranberry, celery, coconut, almonds, grapes… That’s how we got people talking about us. People would come in here and have the Bombay and … then they would tell their friends. The sweet one is called Desirée and … it has poached pears and red wine and then Brie cheese, a homemade chocolate ganache and homemade crème Anglaise with toasted almonds and cinnamon.
Q: Where do you get the inspiration for your recipes?
A: It’s mostly my crepe [recipes]. I look at high-end pizza [restaurants and] what kind of combinations they have.
Q: Where are the decorations from? Did someone make them from you?
A: We were in Paris a couple of years ago, so we brought back a couple of sketches… [and] framed those. I wanted something warm and cozy. The way I look at it here [is] it’s really good food in a comfortable environment; you don’t have to dress up to the nines to come here.
Q: Do you work here everyday?
A: Not everyday anymore – I’m here at least five days a week and then on the sixth day usually I do the errands for the café and then I take one day off to myself, but I’m pretty much hands on.
While Patenaude and I chat about MasterChef Canada and the local food movement, she adds that people can expect events tailored around Prince Edward County wine samplings this summer. For some like Patenaude, chasing a dream can never be accomplished too late in life.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
For more information about Geneva Crepe Café Bistro, please visit: www.genevacrepecafe.com
All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to email@example.com.