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Paris' Oldest Kitchen Equipment Shop

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It took me several visits to the mythical 200-year-old professional kitchenware shop Dehillerin in Paris before they agreed to sell me the knife I wanted. A unique gastronomic pilgrimage destination if you can swallow the attitude.

Dehillerin Picture © Dominique Brodbeck www.brodeck.org

The Dehillerin shop is famous for its range of copper casseroles, sold in every shape and size with either the traditional tin coating or the more durable stainless steel interior. But that's only about a fifth of their inventory. You'll find there every possible contraption used to cut, mash, wash, filter, boil, steam, mold or serve food. These are not the designer tools found in high-end kitchenware shops but rather super resistant, streamlined, giant sized tools used by actual French chefs. No surprise the place is such a magnet for amateur foodies!

I assume Dehillerin must have been featured in wealthy housewifes magazines in Japan and North America because they flock here on sunny Paris afternoons, a bit ill-at-ease in the manly bazaar ambience. The shop has been selling kitchenware and cookware to professional cooks for two centuries, so tourists are clearly not a priority. If you are a foreign chef you'll be treated decent, but amateurs and tourists are put on the back burner.

See for yourself. A scene is repeated every other minute in the shop. One of the tourist clients would ask the price of some saucepan. One of the attendant, clad in blue overalls, gives him a nasty grin and says "You can read, can't you? Well then, it will be easy since you're so smart. You take the saucepan's reference number, here #5439795844 and go at the end of the aisle to see the price sheet. Understood? Attaboy" or words to that effect. You can see the price list in the middle of Mr Brodeck's pictures above. A really easy and user friendly system. Hard to understand why a hundred clients a day ask the question. They could put a large sign in English and French but they would miss the fun.

And if you need help, then God helps you. On an earlier visit, I saw this gigantic dented knife on a shelf and asked the attendant if he could get if for me. "What do you want to use it for?" he asked sharply. "To cut roasts, I guess" I answered. He put the knife back before I could even touch it. "This is not the knife for you. This one is used to cut slices off whole salmons. Here is a roast knife" he said, handing me the right knife, an ugly asparagus of a knife. I was quite disappointed but it became clear that they would not sell me the 'wrong' knife even if I insisted. End of story. I had bought about all I could carry, and the shop employee gave me his business card, explaining that he worked on commissions. This shows some economic rationale for the better treatment awarded to chefs who probably buy large quantities.

Parisians are not bad people. Not worse than New-Yorkers at least. But they just have more respect for the man who is almost rudely agressive than for the one who is apologetically looking at his shoes. That's their culture. After about 2 decades of visiting Paris I've come to almost enjoy dealing with the Parisian in-your-face attitude and now manage not to be treated like a schmuck.

I still wanted my knife and devised a little plan to get a better treatment next time I visited the shop and buy my knife.

About a year later, I arrived and my guy was busy mouth-trashing one of the tourist clients. I came right behind him and said loudly "Alors Monsieur [man's last name], tu me fais un enfant dans le dos?" ("So Mister, are you making me a child behind my back?", a highly colorful expression implying that the man did not recognize one of his old and trusted clients and was serving the tourists instead of dropping everything to come to me). It worked like a charm. The informal 'tu' used by professional cooks between themselves was the finishing note. The guy turned round, red in the face, like if I was some famous cook he could just not remember. He escorted me to every corner of the shop, kindly offering to look prices up, making jokes, carrying my stuff for me. I decided to try my chance with the knife again ans asked "You wouldn't have a salmon steak knife by any chance?". He stopped to think for a moment, raced to the knifes aisle and came back proudly with the knife in hand "You are lucky, we are the only one to stock it in Paris."

Rue Coquillère 18-20
Paris (at les Halles)

Published 13/09/2006

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  • #1
  • Comment by Yves Bonnard
  • on: 19/03/2007
Génial... très impressionnant! A bientôt! Yves Bonnard
  • #2
  • Comment by jordan courtney-ellis
  • on: 11/04/2007
I've been there! Same as you - my girlfriend thought a garlic press was 5€, then 50€  it turned out to be 9€.
  • #3
  • Comment by FX Hartigan
  • on: 02/06/2007
Je ne suis jamais allé en France, mais... un jour, je continue à dire. J'aimerais bien y chercher des trucs culinaires. When I go into restaurant supply stores, I call it "chef porn."
  • #4
  • Comment by Sandra Oliva
  • on: 11/07/2007
Love your website/blog, beautiful pictures and most of all this story made me laugh.  Good description.
  • #5
  • Comment by Stephen Lamb
  • on: 31/07/2007
Wonderful story and will make my upcoming visit to this story much more rewarding.  Many thanks!
  • #6
  • Comment by kim evasic
  • on: 07/10/2007
Brilliant, apt description.  I go there often, and my newfound friend, Emile, usually has a lingering fragrance of wine on his breath, and will now help me.  Not the case when I first went in and felt like I was in the way as they catered to the "real" customers.  Love this place.
  • #7
  • Comment by jeanne
  • on: 15/11/2007
How I enjoyed this article! It was a chance to relive the experience my friend and I had. I am certain the same clerk reluctantly agreed to assist us.We were clear targets for his rudeness... non-French speaking American women... yikes.but what a haven for chefs. My friend's son is a chef in N.H.and she was looking for a saucepan of high character. Loved the experience and the drama of it all. We also returned last year and purchased a partner for the saucepan.
  • #8
  • Comment by Skip Fowler
  • on: 17/12/2007
I have been shopping at Dehillerin since 1970.  Although not a professional chief I am a serious amateur.  My wife and I, I was in the Army stationed in Europe at the time, were referred to the store by Julia Child whose name opened doors.  Our original salesman Gaston has gone to his reward, probably due to those Gauloises that were ever present.  We have introduced dozens to the store and received the article from one whom we had introduced.
  • #9
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 18/12/2007
Thanks Skip, do you remember what you bought from Dehillerin? What was the fanciest cookware you ever bought there? And the very best buy?
  • #10
  • Comment by Michel Bieri
  • on: 04/01/2008
When I was apprenti patissier in Paris in 1965. on my day off I would take the last subway with about 100 empty eggs carton to sell them at the Halles and stay with my aunt which was selling all her red Beet from the banlieue where they raised them.and throughout the night I would go glue my nose to the mecca of the most beautiful store in the world and wonder at the very pricey equipment, (I was making only 50Francs a month) and now here in california 43 years later everytime I use my copper poelon amongst other think I am so glad that I spend that 42 Francs for it , What a bargain that was If I only knew that I would still have and use It . Thank you for remind me of my wonderful work I choose to do. Chef Michel
  • #11
  • Comment by Ruth
  • on: 08/01/2008
I have not been to this delightful sounding store yet. Thank you for the charming article. I do however disagree with you about one tiny thing...New Yorkers are FAR less rude than Parisians. I've been to Paris about 50 times, often to visit relatives and I love the city. But their rudeness trumps every other city I've ever visited. Maybe you could open a branch Dehillerin in NYC?
  • #12
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 17/01/2008
Michel I am so glad my blog helped you reminisce your wonderful time in Paris as a trainee pastry chef. What a city to learn this trade! You are very right about expensive cookware - we are all too poor to be able to afford cheap equipment. Only heavy, well-built pots will last. The others wear out and need constant replacing. I want to be buried with my favorite pots and hope they'll last my lifetime!
  • #13
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 17/01/2008
Ruth you and I should organise a rudeness contest to pitch the Parisians against the New Yorkers. But what language would we use? Clearly the Parisians like to take advantage of the hapless anglo tourist, I bet they wouldn't be so confortable if they had to do it in English!
  • #14
  • Comment by Jay
  • on: 26/04/2008
Charming observations
  • #15
  • Comment by Cecile
  • on: 02/05/2008
Wow, what a fabulous piece ! I went to Dehillerin in 1998 and was so confused I bought nothing but marvelled at the selection, dust, rude but very knowledgeable clerks.  I'm going back in July.  This time I won't be put off by all the confusion and won't feel as intimidated as before.    I'm also researching prices on copper cookware in NYC to see if Dehillerin is less pricey.  I loved how you gamed the system...finally getting the knife of your dreams.  Thanks again for a wonderful trip down memory lane.
  • #16
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 04/05/2008
Cecile, thanks for visiting and good luck with Dehillering! I recommend you check Mora at Rue Montmartre, a stone trow away, they are more friendly, they speak English and have the same cookware. Otherwise check on Ebay for lots of copper cookware bargains. Good luck!
  • #17
  • Comment by Alan
  • on: 27/06/2008
I've been there twice, but strangely got no attitude, probably because I'm a Filipino and they thought I was clueless, either that or I knew exactly what I wanted (le creuset ironware -- a dou feu, sauce pan and frying pan) and wouldn't be diverted. I found it delightful and I'll always remember the Italian visitor who came in, stood for a moment at the doorway, gazed around him and then whispered reverently, "bella".

Always been meaning to try the restaurant beside it, which is supposed to be famous for its pork knuckles as well as its onion soup, available 24 hours a day. Wonder if you've been there and can give a review?

Love your site and recipes by the way, found it by following the spoor from your old postings about learning foreign languages
  • #18
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 28/06/2008
Alan, a knowledgeable cook is universally respected, even at DeHillerin! The restaurant next door is Le Pied de Cochon, the food is OK, a really consistent level of good brasserie but not the fanciest. It's great to try it at least once. The porky waiter (you'll see which one) is one of the rudest in Paris, punch him once for me if you see him!
  • #19
  • Comment by Matthew Johnson
  • on: 19/07/2008
I visited this shop by chance while lost in Paris ( lost in Paris is not a bad thing by the way)  The sight of copper pots and jelly molds caught my eye.  The week before i had spent visiting the many chateau in the Loire. I was inspired by the shelves FILLED TO THE BRIM with copper.  
The store is amazing inside!  I could have left with a million and one things but unfortunatly for me i was already overbudget.  I managed  to figure out the price guide thing myself, picked up a copper pot and brought it up to the counter.  The man seemed very pleased to see me possibly because i seem so young but it was a very enjoyable experience.  I did notice some people were being treated in a rude manner but i guess i just got lucky!
  • #20
  • Comment by Mona
  • on: 19/08/2008
I really amazed.  Very interesting article and good you told us about their rudeness. I visited Paris on 1989, and Renne ( west France ), Bretagne in 2000.
But why they don't want to sell their ? I don't understand??
Anyway thanks for your valuable information.  Thanks a million for your web site.  :)
  • #21
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 19/08/2008
Mona, Parisians come across as rude but it's mostly a cultural style. There is even an campaign of TV commercial for the daily "The Parisian" centered on the reputation of Parisians as very rude people. It's not a commercial strategy, but it wouldn't matter as Dehillerin is full like an egg from dawn till dusk.
  • #22
  • Comment by anna
  • on: 01/09/2008
Have visited Dehillerin many times and I don't speak French. Just rove around the aisles, pick up what you want, don't ask the price and have them pack it up. My last wish is to be waked at G. Detou and buried in the basement of Dehillerin in one of those ancient copper pots big enough to stew a whale.
  • #23
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 02/09/2008
Anna, that is a most intriguing plan for your funeral, but where would you have your last meal - at Le Pied de Cochon just opposite?
  • #24
  • Comment by Feyoh
  • on: 16/09/2008
Thank you for the tip of how to shop for cookware in Paris. A really handy bit of information about the price list.

Nice stratagem on getting the knife you wanted.
  • #25
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 16/09/2008
Thanks Feyoh and have fun in Paris!
  • #26
  • Comment by Geoff Ball
  • on: 28/11/2008
I remember I was going to buy a postcard from a shop keeper in Torino. But he turns to his buddy as I'm waiting for him to ring up the bill and he tells his buddy I'm stupid for paying the 2500 Lira for the card (in Italian).

I said, "Maybe, but maybe not" as I left without the card.

I also found the staff on the Italian trains to be rather rude.
  • #27
  • Comment by Claudio Czapski
  • on: 03/01/2009
I've been a client of Dehillerin, Mora and Simon since the late 70's - and over time nothing seems to change. It's amazing how time stops there - anyone wishing to get the feel of "good old times" has just to walk in.
And I agree with you guys - kitchen supply and equipment is an investment - get the best you can afford and it will last and please forever. And take your kids with you when you buy because they'll keep using the stuff after you passed away .
  • FX's answer→ Claudio, indeed it is a special moment when browsing through their aisles. You should really visit Kappashi Dori cookware street in Tokyo (see my other article), it's like 400 x Dehillerin, and they are polite on top!

  • #29
  • Comment by Grant
  • on: 25/06/2009
I don't understand Americans and the French. You can take 10 Americans and walk them into the same store and 5 will come out saying the French are rude and the other 5 will say they're delightful. I've bought every piece of cookware I own from Dehillerin over the years and I've never once been treated rudely by any of the staff and I'm American and I don't speak any French.

I also don't know why people struggle with the pricing system. They're more than willing to explain it to you. If you think about it when you go to McDonalds the cheeseburgers don't come with a pricetag attached. You look on the menu for cheeseburger and then you look at the price. Problem is we all know how to spell cheeseburger. If we were a store that dealt with international people who didn't know the names of things in the local language we'd just place a #1 tag on the cheeseburger and they'd look on the menu for #1 and find the price. This works for virtually every language on the planet including Chinese! Maybe the system hasn't changed because it works. I walk in, I find what I want (without knowing the French name), I find the number on it then I look it up in the book hanging at the end of the aisle which has the price. If I like the item I just jot the number down on a sheet of paper and when I get done I hand the paper to them and pay.

For those who don't know even if you choose to have it shipped home (you pay shipping but not local tax) I pay 50% what the same cookware costs at Sur La Table or Williams Sonoma. The former has the identical Mauviel cookware but the latter has thinner versions for the American home cook (go for the real stuff). The cheapest way to buy from them is to carry it out and take the paperwork provided by Dehillerin to the customs window at the airport. Not only do you not pay shipping but you don't pay tax.
  • #30
  • Comment by Katy
  • on: 14/09/2009
I stumbled across your website/blog while researching some information on Dehillerin for a friend who is going to Paris.  You are such a HOOT!  Plus, I love your recipes--probably because you cook a lot like me (I too am a pepperhead...), and because you also use the "my own invention" phrase for stuff you just make up (I have done this for years--it comes from Tweedldee and Tweeedldum's "It's my own invention" in Alice in Wonderland...).

I will be back, keep writing!!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Katy! I have many sorts of pepper in my kitchen, like the Sarawak best so far.

What a cool little place. I wish we had somewhere like that near me!

Excellent article.
OK - now I am prepped.  On my way there in 5 minutes.  
  • FX's answer→ Steve I hope your visit at Dehillerin went well!

  • #35
  • Comment by Jennifer Oswald
  • on: 23/06/2010
I am on a road trip from our home in Italia through Belgium, France, Spain, and back.  Your articles on where to find cookware & ingredients are epic (thank you!).  I'll be heading to Dehillerin on Friday, as well as G.Detout.  I am 95% sure I have also convinced my husband to take us through Fresnoy to visit the LeCreuset factory.  Have you been there?  Wondering whether it is worth it when I know I'm going to be standing in front of all that LeCreuset @ Dehillerin...

I've asked a friend to come with me, (one) b/c I think she would enjoy it, but (two) b/c I think I need someone to keep me accountable.  :)  
  • FX's answer→ I was asked to do a reportage on their factory but it was too far to drive to - no time. Just make sure you enjoy the many nice things you can do food-wise in France and don't worry too much about missing this or that - it will just be a pretext to come back to France!

  • #37
  • Comment by Jennifer Oswald
  • on: 26/06/2010
Bah!  The *only* store that had Le Creuset was La Bovida!  (I didn't even think the selection was very broad)  Mora, Simon, Dehillerin all had Staub, but the only sign of Le Creuset was a few flame-coloured lids in a dusty, old box on the floor of an aisle in the basement of Dehillerin (I wasn't even sure if they were for sale).  Did I miss the memo??  I called the LeCruset factory and they no longer offer tours for safety reasons.  Still debating whether the 1.5 drive from Paris would be worth the discount.
  • FX's answer→ Jennifer, is there a reason why you like Staub less than Le Creuset? I have mostly Le Creuset but both look rather similar to me - am I missing something?

  • #39
  • Comment by Richard
  • on: 27/08/2010
Great article, I need some new kitchen items. My wife and I are going over soon. What is the best way to have items shipped back to the US?
  • #40
  • Comment by Linda Newman
  • on: 04/10/2010
I was looking for this cooking store and enjoyed your information.  Also, I drink Cupcake wine and there was a contest to enter...I thought it was so funny!

Thank you and I look forward to discovering E. Dehillerin on my visit beginning tomorrow, 10/4.

Linda Newman
  • #41
  • Comment by Maurine
  • on: 18/10/2010
Now you have me anxiously awaiting my second trip to Dehilleirn. My first visit, in 2000, was a treat, with a sales clerk who was positively charming, almost flirty, and helped me through the store as I picked out knives, a chinios, a copper bowl.... altogether I think I spent less than $400 US, so it wasn't the commission for sure.  My second visit will be in two weeks- I can't wait to see how that goes!
  • #42
  • Comment by Pam
  • on: 09/08/2011
Thank you so much for identifying this store to me.  8 yrs ago I visited this tremendous store, but then lost track of it.  Back in Paris and planning on going back.  Thanks.

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