In a city steeped in food and food culture, stepping off the Rue Coquillière into E. Dehillerin in central Paris is like finding and extra gear at Le Mans, or an all downhill stage in the Tour de France. For curious cooks this sprawling carnival funhouse of kitchen goods is the Diagon Alley of foodies. It’s a bit cluttered and dusty, but the minute you walk in you can’t help but ask, “where has this been all my life”.
Opened in 1820, E. Dehillerin specializes in copper cookware (pots, pans), and heavy enamel bakeware. In fact, they have such an extensive collection that, from what I could tell, the entire basement showroom (rough racks, shelves, and boxes stacked in aisles, etc.) is dedicated to copper and enamelware. It’s one of those, “if they don’t have it, you don’t need it” places.
Back upstairs, the moment you walk in the door you’re hit with the temple of whisks, a long aisle filled on one side with bin after bin of wire whisks of every size. And across form this is rolling pin central, a floor to ceiling rack of rolling pins in various sizes, weights, and woods. Further back sits a warren of steel skillets, including a miraculous feat of engineering – three 8-inch skillets fused together on one handle. For egg lovers it is the ultimate, and for the rest of you, it’s, well, it looks like something best experimented with in private amongst consenting adults.
Rest assured my heart fluttered more than a little, and it took a Herculean effort not to walk out with one. I think it was only the thought of explaining it at customs that stopped me. But the store goes on and on like this, from chinois to cleaver, and mezzaluna to mandoline, E. Dehillerin has it all.
The one downside is that prices are (for the most part) not listed. You have to take the tagged catalogue number to one of the employees who will look it up in their battered paper catalogue and quote you the price. Mercifully the employees are plentiful and extremely friendly, so it’s also a great way to interact with the experts and the perfect excuse to solicit advice.
E. Dehillerin doesn’t sell food; they only handle the gear to prepare it. But beware, this shop’s mojo works on you, slowly, insidiously. I left (the first time) having bought nothing. But I spent the next three days with a wish list feverishly eating away at my willpower, and fantasizing about my French cookware fantasy life (brilliant cook, eating healthier, slim waist, stylish wardrobe, shiny hair, whiter teeth, witty conversationalist, irresistible to everyone). Then, on the last day of my trip, I went back and fished my limit (my modest budget), coming home with things I would now use with fond memories of what will forever be “my kitchen shop in Paris”.
Text and photos by Glenn D. Kaufmann
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