The Goofus and Gallant of Chocolate
I can’t tell you how many times people ask me, “Aren’t Parisians rude?”
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.)
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.
149, rue de l’Université
Tel: 01 47 53 74 40