(CNN) — In honor of Bastille Day, we'd like to take a moment to celebrate one of France's greatest contributions to the world -- its pastries.
There's no point in traveling to France without sampling the pastry. In fact, one might as well gobble macarons, éclairs and opera cake slices morning, noon and night. The country's pastry chefs are arguably the world's best, and they've been whipping up treats and teaching their techniques across the globe for centuries. If you're visiting Paris, you'll find no shortage of pastry shops, and the city has some of the oldest shops in the world. Why are all those croissants, tarts, soufflés and crème brûlées so darn good? Pastry chef Nina Metayer says it has something to do with an utter devotion to the craft.
"All the pastry chefs I know ... they are totally passionate," said Metayer.
Metayer includes herself in that category.
She started making treats as a child to make her family happy, often feasting on the raw dough and batter in the process.
As an adult, she first started her career in breadmaking before moving over to pastry. She worked her way up through jobs at Hotel Raphael and Le Grand Restaurant, and was named Pastry Chef of the Year by "Le Chef" magazine in 2016. She also placed third in the French TV competition show, "Qui sera le meilleur pâtissier?" (Who's the best pastry chef?)
She likes to keep her desserts light and fruity, paying attention to whatever's in season. She most recently worked for Café Pouchkine but is now following personal pursuits.
If you're lucky enough to visit Paris, Metayer has a few suggestions on how to pick the best shops from among the dozens open in the city. She says shops will either have good bread or good pastry, but rarely both at the same time. Get your bread from one place, but your croissants somewhere else, as the two techniques are difficult to master at the same time.
She also encourages an attention to fine detail. A smooth, shiny finish on the chocolate, for example, is an indication that the pastry will taste as good as it looks.
"It's a good way to know they made it with love," said Metayer.
Metayer's recommendations for treats in Paris:
Jacques Genin -- The caramels melt perfectly in the mouth at this famous chocolaterie. 3rd Arrondissment