The discreet, green façade of the store makes no effort to pull in a crowd and some of the cooking implements in the window look tired. Yet if the light catches in just the right way, you might spot a gleam of copper through the open door. If you have a food-loving bone in your body, you’ll feel a flutter of excitement and decide that this unassuming place merits a look.
Pause on the threshold to behold. To the left, gleaming copper pans and moulds line the wall. Directly ahead, a staircase leads thrillingly down to who knows where? To the right, shelves reaching from floor to ceiling hold giant whisks, out-sized rolling pins and heavy duty saucepans. Congratulations! You have found E-Dehillerin, the Aladdin’s Cave for chefs.
The E-Dehillerin family business has been supplying equipment to the catering trade since 1820 and you can sort of tell. Some of the stock looks as if it hasn’t moved an inch in that time. Other products are flying off the shelves as tourists fill their baskets with cake tins in every imaginable size, not quite believing their luck. Enormous salt spoons, crêpe pans, mini patîsserie moulds; the tourists don’t need them, but the shop has unleashed their inner chef.
The basement offers quiet relief from the hustle upstairs and there’s a sense that this is where the professionals do business. Truly enormous pans are stacked carelessly on the floor or heaved onto a shelf. These pans would be the ideal place to play hide and seek or – serious chef hat on – to whip up a stock for 200 people.
The current manager – Eric Dehillerin – agrees that the store is different adding ‘we didn’t plan this concept, it just happened naturally.’ He is a descendant of the founder, Eugene Dehillerin and explains with quiet pride ‘we don’t have everything, but it’s a shop which has a soul.’
Part of this soul is the idiosyncratic staff. Kim is often first to the door to greet visitors and can apparently slip into any European language at will. Other staff members are pleasant enough when approached but seemingly adhere to the old school rules of French customer service; the customer is only occasionally king. As the queue of clamouring tourists grows, only the most persistent hold their place in the unruly line. Forget the softly-softly approach, brash is best in the eye of the shopping storm which regularly occurs at E-Dehillerin.
This is a cookery store like no other, housing an array of heavy-duty catering equipment mixed with tourist fripperies such as Eiffel Tower cookie cutters. Clutter? Check. Cramped aisles? Check. Charm? In spades. Mr Dehillerin sums it up well, ‘we’re not the only catering shop in Paris, but we are a ‘must visit’ for those who love cooking.’
E-Dehillerin. 18 – 20, rue Coquillière – 51, rue Jean- Jacques Rousseau – 75001 PARIS Métro: Châtelet/Les Halles Phone: +33 1 42 36 53 13 – Fax: +33 1 42 36 54 80
Open on mondays from 9 to 12.30 and from 14 to 18 and on tuesdays to saturdays from 9 to 18. http://www.e-dehillerin.fr/en/index.php