April 30, 2013

Fine food

38 rue de Sèvres in Paris’ seventh arrondissement is home to La Grande Epicerie de Paris. Since 1978, epicureans of the French capital have flocked here in search of the myriad delicacies—as amazing as they are appetizing—stocking the shelves of this temple of fine foods. Join us for a backstage tour of this mouthwatering and exceptional place.

At La Grande Epicerie, visitors can browse through almost 3,000 square meters stocked with some 30,000 items and four sections: groceries, fresh produce, the wine cellar, and the lab kitchens. From classic fare to the rarest aliments, each product is carefully sourced from the four corners of the world—or handcrafted by one of La Grande Epicerie’s artisans.

An inconspicuous door leads to 1,500 square meters of laboratory kitchens divided between two lower levels. Surrounded by four white walls, twenty-four master artisans hover over stoves and countertops. Jean-Jacques Massé, Director of Gastronomy and winner of the prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de France award for culinary craftsmanship, masterfully orchestrates the entire production destined for the store’s shelves and restaurants, as well as the catering department.

The tour starts with the “hot kitchen”. Everything requiring cooking is prepared here before being stabilized at its ideal temperature. The air is full of the delicious aromas wafting from the large ovens. A few steps away, salads and other dishes are prepared in the “cold kitchen”. Expert skill and concentration go into every cut and technique. Sumptuous trays of carefully prepared appetizers will be sent out to grace the buffets of receptions and cocktail parties.

In the pastry section, artisans of all nationalities revisit the great classics, such as macarons, strawberry charlotte, gourmet cheesecakes, or an Iran pistachio R-cake, and a new take on the mille-feuilles (Napoleon) with vertical layers. Like high fashion designers, the pastry chefs at La Grande Epicerie are always working one season in advance. For example, the cake for the holiday season is designed in the spring.

The last stop on the tour is the bakery, where twenty master bakers start work in the wee hours of the morning. Sixty sorts of bread and thirty types of French pastry are produced in five daily batches, with a special creation offered each month. Limited editions also enhance the bakery’s catalogue. The artisans look to seasonal products and bold recipes for creative inspiration as they carry on the excellence synonymous with La Grande Epicerie.

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