The Goofus and Gallant of Chocolate

I can’t tell you how many times people ask me, “Aren’t Parisians rude?”

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Unlike Americans who are nice 100% of the time, yes, there are rude Parisians. And today I met one.

I took my guests into a well-know chocolate shops, whose name I won’t mention (ok, twist my arm…Jean-Paul Hèvin). My normal mode for visiting chocolate shops is this: We go inside, we meet the chocolatiers or salesperson, I explain the chocolates, often we’ll do a tasting, then guests will buy some chocolate to bring home. On occasion, some folks like to take a photo.
And I always ask politely before taking photos anywhere in Paris, even if I know it’s okay. It’s a courtesy. If someone says, “No, we don’t allow that here”, I’m fine with that. Several places in Paris have a no-photo policy, as do several places in the US (Central Market, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods, for example). My thoughts are that we’re on private property and it’s the owners right to deny or approve photos.

Fine.

So I ask at Jean-Paul Hèvin if it’s okay. The salewoman looks at me and says (and I’m not making this up), “You can only take a picture after you buy something.”

Incredibly tacky. Oui?

After I had a few ‘words’ with the shopkeeper, we finished our tour and I came home and deleted any and all references to Hèvin in the two magazine articles I’m writing and a future book project.
Au revoir.

One of my guests, however, said it was a very interesting lesson, illuminating the difference between rude & unwelcoming vs generous & gracious. And speaking of generous and gracious…

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This is Michel Chaudun.
He’s the owner and chocolatiers of his own shop, Michel Chaudun, located just a few blocks away. M. Chaudun was the head chocolatier at La Maison du Chocolat before striking out on his own twenty years ago.

When we showed up at his shop, M. Chaudun was preparing to make a delivery but when he saw me, he came over to warmly greet me and my guests. As you can see from his charming smile, M. Chaudin clearly loves what he does. I not-so-secretly wish that he was my grandfather.

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We tasted many chocolates, from cocoa nib-flecked disks of pure dark chocolate to tasty bits of crisp caramelized almonds enrobed in bittersweet chocolate, but my favorite are always Les Pavés, tiny squares of singularly-perfect ganache. Each one is the perfect bite of chocolate. He also had us sample a new chocolate, filled with a smooth paste of toasted sesame seeds and surprisingly, peanuts. (He created them for his shop in Tokyo since the French have the same distaste for peanuts in chocolate that Americans have for bull scrotums in tripe sauce.)

He’s also the master of chocolate sculptures and whimsical forms, including an exact replica of a Dremel drill, a full-sized perfectly-detailed feathered duck, and a miniature Hermès Kelly Bag with a matching orange sack that is a few thousand euros less than an original and certainly more tasty (although I’ve never tried to eat a Kelly bag, so I can’t be sure. But that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

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And yes, these are replicas of sausage made entire of chocolate. Wow!

There’s a moral to this story somewhere here, but I can’t quite find it…and am heading off to bed early, since we have an exclusive private tasting at La Maison du Chocolat.

But I would advise visitors to Paris to come to the boutique of Michel Chaudun.
And skip one of the others.

Michel Chaudun
149, rue de l’Université
Tel: 01 47 53 74 40

30 comments

  • Thanks for this piece! (I’m loving your blog, by the way. Still on my list is a trip to Berthillon for a heavenly wedge of tarte tatin; been drooling over your photo from way back when.) Unfortunately, I can pretty well imagine an Hevin salesperson responding to you that way. As for Michel Chaudun, he’s my absolute fave. I’ve never dared to hope setting eyes on him at his shop, so thanks for the close-up! *Miam,* I feel a sudden hankering for some of those paves and his mini-ganaches….

  • Oh dear, I felt things were a bit frosty at Hèvin when I was there on my macaron-buying spree last December, and that was even without trying to take a picture. Next time I’ll definitely skip it in favor of Michel Chaudun, even if he doesn’t make macarons – I’m sure a chocolate saucisson will more than suffice.

    p.s. don’t tell Michèle, but I didn’t even like the Hèvin macarons that much…

  • I can’t understand how people who work around chocolate can have wierd pinchy faces and be so uptight! Monsieur Chaudun is a happy man and his chocolates look divine. I really enjoy this site, thanks.

  • What does the ice cream cone with the big X mean?

    The 30.90 on the faux sausage–is that the real price in Euros? If so, what a bargain!

    Bull scrotum in tripe sauce… ooo-kkkk, David. I don’t _want_ to know how you came up with that one.

  • Love the sausages…I’ve been digging up quite a few links to sculpted chocolate.

    My main concern tho is does it really taste as good as it looks? Everyone has been going ga-ga over Prudence Emma Staite’s chocolate rooms (with lickable wallpaper), but is it really that cool to make a chocolate chandelier if all it tastes of is waxy sugar?

    I guess that’s better than bull scrotum tho. lol

  • David,

    I’m really glad you committed to removing the references from the not-so-nice establishment and also let who know about it.

    I hope all of us in the industry can learn that it’s never acceptable to treat customers like that. Even in fancy shops! :)

    Ok, back to devouring your story. I’m jealous.

    -matt

  • Good for you for telling it how it is!

  • I didn’t experience too much rudeness when I was in Paris – it was mostly my own intimidation at being in these famous places I had to go over. In Hong Kong, however, I was amazed that almost every bakery refused to let me take pictures – even ones I would consider to be rather “regular” bakeries. Very disappointing!
    I am most curious about that “no ice cream” sign though…

  • Jennifer: As Mort Rosenblum told me, “Jean-Paul Hèvin wouldn’t spit on you in the desert if you were dying of thirst”…

    Melissa: Yes, I don’t know how Hèvin won that award for ‘best macaron‘ in Paris. His taste vaguely chocolaty and cost almost 3 times the price (3 euros each!) as ones at Ladurée.

    Callipygia: Most of the chocolatiers in Paris look rather cheerful, even M. Linxe from La Maison du Chocolat, who’s been doing it for over 30 years.

    Jeff: Yes that’s the price. I haven’t bought one yet since I’m trying to eat all my chocolate at home before the searing summer heat arrives.

    Kung Foodie: Most of those chocolate sculptures are indeed for show, but the real chocolates are truly exceptional. M. Chaudun makes these teeny-tiny dipped chocolates for the Japanese market which are intricate and exquisite (and taste good too.)

    Matt: Please send me a box of dead snails. There’s someone I want to send them to.

    Catherine: Let’s bring the suckers down!

    Anita: The no ice cream sign is from the Ile-St Louis, in a shop near Berthillon ice cream. In Japan, most places don’t allow pictures. That’s why, I think, when the Japanese travel, they have to take lots of pictures; their trigger-fingers are itchin’ to shoot something!

  • You can run into rude people everywhere ( not just Paris)! Isn’t it is just a real shame when you are hosting people, and you run into people like those in the “unmentionable chocolate shop”. There really is no need…get over yourself. The real treat and lesson, is that you were able to find a friendly and talented chocolatier who was gracious ( and he does look so sweet in his picture!).

  • You are both deliciously catty and deliciously evil. You know, as I do, that by linking to the Cruella DeVilles of the world, they will find your link in their stats. And they will read your words, and they will realize that they lost an opportunity. They lost multiple opportunities: they lost a friend, a fan, and a powerful voice to endorse the quality of their products.

    For you, as I, do not truck with people who sow bad karma. Mean is mean. I can forgive mean if it’s not attached to a bunch of other vices, like greed or vanity.

    There is a restaurant in town that has a long-lived reputation for being some kind of culinary destination. But their whole attitude is “you’re lucky to be here.”

    Well, not to put too crude a point on it, but F that. And F those who hand out perfumed bouquets with that as their main stem.

    Good for you for telling it like it is.

  • P.S. I forgot to laugh OUT LOUD at the Goofus and Gallant reference. Those snotty people won’t get it, and how in the world will it translate into French? I suppose your actual subjects will do your work for you in that regard. Read the story, then Google these names, Goofus and Gallant, and then apply the French behaviors as an overlay onto the cartoon in Highlights.

    Very Very Very Good Work, David. A universal lesson.

  • Hag and Tana: Yes, you do run into rude people anywhere…and if anyone wants proof, visit a US airport, take a seat and watch (and listen to) humanity in action. Unfortunately in France, you can’t complain since no one cares, and they can’t be fired in most cases. And bad attitude comes from the top anyways so what’s the point. Fortunately, quality usually rules in the long-term and the best remain long after the others disappear.

  • How disappointing.I’m staying in a friend’s pied-a-terre in the 6th just down the street from JPH & I was planing on daily visits. There’s also an Amorino gelato shop a bit further down — I could walk in with a GIANT drippy ice cream cone & see what happens? But will anyone bail me out when the flics haul me away in chains…I guess I’ll head over to MC instead :)

  • Can you take me around for private chocolate tastings?! How great does that sound! I can’t believe that about the picture after you buy something, unbelievable. At least you have people like Michel Chaudun to make up for it!

    ~Dianka

  • This a geat post, and I love the picture of Michel Chaudun. What an adoreable man!

    p.s. I bought “The Great Book of Chocolate” yesterday at Powell’s, and it is awesome. I’ve already learned so much, and thanks for having two Oregon things in it: Dagoba and the Pearl Bakery! We’re comin’ up in the world.

  • I’m so glad you wrote that about this shop. I went there once and I felt so despised I never want to go back…

  • …Jean-Paul Hèvin. I shall remember that name. And thanks for the “heads-up” on this ill-mannered choclatier’s staffs’ attitude. But are your truly surprised at the brusqueness and the appallingly rude manners of the French – especially the Parisians? Perhaps some New Yorkers could teach them a thing or two about rudeness?! However, because I KNOW you have consistently gentle and exquisite good manners, I am OUTRAGED at the way you were treated; I shall NEVER EVER set foot in ANY of Jean-Paul Hèvin’s shops in Paris or Japan, or buy his stuff. And!! I shall loudly tell all my friends NEVER EVER to buy his stuff!! So there!!

  • I found this news article and thought of you:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12721133/

    First little bit:

    TICONDEROGA, N.Y. – What does 225-year-old chocolate taste like?

    Historians and scholars think they know. They researched how roasted cocoa beans were used to make chocolate in colonial times, and came up with a product they call American Heritage Chocolate.

  • David – these posts are WONDERFUL! I wish I could be there to take your tour…I’m sad that Hevin was snooty; obviously they didn’t know who they were dealing with. ;)

  • Oooh la la–I do admire your moxie! : )

  • Amazing story David! It is indeed a lack of tact and man, I am not sure there are even words to describe how tacky that is! Well done, and as you said, Au revoir to them! I wish they could read your post!

  • Well it comes of not being traveled, but all this time I thought I was alone in my dislike for peanuts and chocolate together.
    I also don’t like mixing hot chocolate & hot coffee, the so called “mocha’s”. Sounds good in theory, in practice I find it an uncomplimentary mix of flavors. Cinnamon and hot chocolate or cinnamon & hot coffee on the other hand, by all means!

  • I had a rude experience at Jean Paul Hevin as well. It was 2 years ago. My girlfriend who is American but who has lived in Paris for the last 40 years took me to that shop because I wanted to get some chocolates for my students. We were inside and I was looking at one of the boxes. I (gasp) picked it up to assess it. The salesperson slyly pulled it away from me and set it back down without the bat of an eye. Then I saw the sign that said don’t touch. My friend was appalled at the rudeness of the salesperson. I went ahead and bought chocolate and my students loved it, but I won’t go back there again.

  • Guess I was lucky. I was in Jean-Paul Hèvin for a pastry break on May 12th and everyone I dealt with was lovely. I even took several photos of my pastry and tea and of the displays. I think the chocolate I bought was nice but nothing spectacular but I have fallen madly in love with his caramels.

  • That is interesting, because I was just in Paris on a chocolate visit (sure, I visited museums as well). I stopped by Hevin and though they are not warm, they were nice enough. While at Chaudun, the salesperson was very rude and haughty. His chocolates may be awesome, and Mr. Chaudun himself may be a great host, his salesperson was none of those things and I would think twice about stopping there again. Additionally, this trip is the only one of the many visit to Paris where I ran into particularly rude people, a taxi driver and the salesperson at Chaudun.

  • sorry but this is ridiculous.. because a sales person was rude and idiot you tell people not to visit JPH!!! one of the greatest chocolatiers of France!!

    Is this how much you care ? I leave in Paris and there is no comparison between the quality of the 2 chocolatier…

    JPH is 8/10 and M.C is a 6/10 …. 10/10 if you ask me is Patrick Rodger….

  • Aristotelis: As regular readers of the site know, I very rarely write negative things about places, mainly because I worked in the food service industry for 35 years and I know how challenging it can be. In this instance, I was so taken aback at how completely rude this salesperson was, it was worth the mention so others could avoid a similar experience. I just could not in good conscience send readers there.

    I do visit M. Hévin’s other shops, and find the salespeople helpful and the chocolates quite good: the tarte Tatin in their salon du Thé is excellent and I’ve mentioned it in a book. I’m a big fan of Patrick Roger as have mentioned his shop numerous times on the site.

  • David-I found this blog to be really interesting when I read it before my trip to Paris.
    I am also in the industry going on 26 years (I own a small chain of French Bakeries).
    I’ve never in all this time run into any rudeness during my Paris pastry shop travels…until this week. I hate to mention names as well because God knows how impossible it is to control what employees say (or do) to customers. This was exceptional. I had been wanting to visit Lenotre for quite some time and decided to got to the one at Ecole Militaire. After a making my selections I asked the older woman who was manager if they had seating. She detected that I was Amercan and you could see her ice over. She scowled and said they didn’t. I thought if I purchased a box of dessert pastries and some bread that this would change the situation. After purchasing I asked a different sales clerk if I could take a photograph.
    The manager heard me asking and YELLED across the shop “NOH”! No explanation, nothing, The clerk was clearly embarrassed by the display of rudeness and she shrugged. Two seconds later some customers walked into the shop and started snapping photos! They never purchased a thing and they turned around and walked out after photographing. I felt like dropping my boxes of pastry in the middle of the store and leaving them. Worse, when I got them back to the apartment where I photographed them while cursing Lenotre, I found them to be absolutely delicious.
    Sublime. Out of principal I can’t go back but the stuff was really beautiful to look at as well. I can say (with glee) that the pastry and staff at Carl Marletti on Rue Censier was the complete highlight of my week so far.
    Thank you for your blog, you have been the guiding light of my entire week of food adventures…merci!
    Terry Carr-Hall

  • Thanks for this; it was very entertaining. I’m glad that I didn’t go to Hévin’s shop and chose Chaudun’s. The salesperson was not exactly friendly but was not condescending or rude either, and took the time to list the contents of every item in the case! Also, I couldn’t believe how inexpensive our order was; six mini-ganaches and a small box of pavés only came to €10. I guess that’s one benefit of having a small, unpretentious shop on a quiet street.