Christmas decorations at the Grande Épicerie on the theme “Snowing on the Left Bank.”
Frédéric Bodenes, directeur artistique de la maison.
Frédéric Bodenes, art director for the store.
Jean-Baptiste Picquart, assistant to the head baker, introduces new recipes, while the croissants and GrandsPains are prepared in the basement.
The Christmas cake Neige de Noisette also comes in a fruit version, the Neige de Passion.
Loïc Cabréro, the department store’s
head pastry chef.
Alexia Soyeux, responsable marketing de la Grande Épicerie.
Alexia Soyeux, marketing manager for the Grande Épicerie.
Le Bon Marché’s food emporium is a well-oiled machine that hums day and night, preparing its own-label delicacies and selected high-end specialties.
L’effervescence de la nuit
Five products that will stop you in your tracks.
White rice The gourmet philosophy of rice would have us focus on each grain, separating core and husk. In this kind of exercise, you need an exceptional rice. Naturally flavored with jasmine, it is from a small Thai producer that uses ancestral methods.
The pinnacle of the world of fowl and feather: a capon and chicken winning “best couple” award at the Prix des Glorieuses de Bresse. The Miéral label delivers a maximum of five each year to the “Grande Ép’.” On average, the married couple weighs 5.5 kg.
The Grande Épicerie’s Grande Brioche Feuilletée
Delicately toasted, or “pulled” when very fresh, this brioche was lovingly tourée (fashioned) using AOP Charentes-Poitou Montaigu butter, AOP being the French equivalent of the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). Highly addictive.
If you want to knock a cheese lover off their feet, try this powerful surprise of a Brie de Meaux with a truffle kick. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy the show.
Galabé sugar, Payet & Rivière
This volcanic sugar from Réunion is almost a collector’s item, nearly vintage. Made of raw sugarcane that is waxy and golden, it has a unique aromatic bouquet, a honeyed texture and a mellow taste: a delight.
The elegant woman pushing her cart through the Grande Épicerie de Paris would probably be seized with a bout of dizziness if she knew what was going on right below her. On two levels, over an area of 1,500 m2, a veritable army of sorts is bustling about among the fruit and vegetables (500 kg daily), flour (in 1,500 kg silos) and breadcrumbs. It’s a kind of Walt Disney cartoon, peopled by characters in chef hats, caps, pencils stuck behind their ears, Skype calls to southern China. La Grande Épicerie never sleeps. Yesterday, from 5pm to 3:30am, a dozen people were here working on a shoot for a women’s magazine, accompanied by an OB van and a 1.76-meter-tall model. They had most likely come across the bakers (21 of them) jumping into action at midnight, security agents pacing the aisles and, at around 6am, the cooks (32 in all). When the doors open (8:30am), an amazing job has been accomplished. The bread is still warm. It is baked fresh every two hours. And soon, there’ll be sandwiches13 different kinds.
Tomorrow is here
At 10am, the director, Michel Turpin, has a slight scowl: a cart for restocking the shelves is still standing in the middle of an aisle. “There is a certain code when it comes to luxury,” he says, “and it must be relentlessly rigorous, from service to cleanliness to quality and display.” In the pastry section, Loïc Cabréro and his team are further refining the Christmas cake, the Neige de Noisette (hazelnut snow). It was developed by the art department in February, after an inspiring trip by its director, Frédéric Bodenes, to the Christmasworld trade fair in Frankfurt in January. His job is to be “where you’d least expect; raising the intangible value of the place; not necessarily to be trendy, but to be constantly on the lookout for something new or out of the ordinary.”
Panoply of delicacies What’s happening behind the scenes at the Grande Épicerie is constantly driven by this slightly offbeat approachin sourcing products, for example, as Alexia Soyeux does. She spends her time scouring the French countryside for rare honeys, unusual salts, the most creative producers around. Angela Intonti probably has the same hungry glint in her eye. She is in charge of the Grande Épicerie’s own line of products. In the space of nearly two years, she has managed to build a range of some 686 products (from 64 producers). Soon it will be 1,000. Hers is no easy task, as it involves penetrating a packed market while developing the Grande Épicerie de Paris label in subtle ways, and ensuring that customers retain the key element of choice. Sales manager Laurent Trégaro, who has been here for 33 years, rises to the same challenge. He manages more than 9,000 leading products (3,000 fresh products) over 500 m2, and has to be as expert in mineral water (190 varieties, including a €50 “bling” brand) as in salts (80) or chips (30). Sorting through the colossal flood of offers, imbuing a sense of calm amidst the hysteria of the proposals. The wings of the Grande Épicerie are like a big, exposed brain, constantly seeking that famous lateral move, that vertical leap, substituting hazelnut for almond in a pastry; picking and choosing among today’s modern optionsspurning the croissant- rolling machine and opting instead for the baker’s technique of twisting them into horns. And all of this taking place in a friendly atmosphere (the “human” dimension)while right upstairs, the young woman’s shopping cart rolls silently on and on.