From spices to fruit jellies - the story of Hédiard, luxury delicatessen Featured

Luxos dropped in at Paris' most famous fine foods store, and we did not leave empty-handed
by 01 July 2010

21, Place de la Madeleine, is a location entirely decorated in red and black. The colours are reminiscent of the cover of a book, but the address is actually that of a French fine foods store. Hédiard has been writing its story of passion and tradition for over 150 years. It all started on a beautiful morning in 1848 in the port of Le Havre, where Ferdinand Hédiard, a young cabinetmaker from a village near Chartres, saw packages of sugar, barrels of rum, sacks of cocoa and coffee, and exotic and fragrant fruits from distant regions. And so he embarked on a new career.

After early days as a street vendor, he opened his first shop in 1854. His “Comptoir des épices et des colonies” [Counter of spices and goods from the colonies] became an unmissable destination. His discoveries, such as Bourbon vanilla, imperial cinnamon, saffron, and cloves, captivated everyone in Paris, and when he opened his store at 21, place de la Madeleine, high society flocked there en masse. For the next 140 years Ferdinand Hédiard’s descendants nurtured and enhanced the store's prestige reputation, and it rapidly became a legendary address. His son-in-law Max Kusel, for example, revolutionised the business, introducing fruit jellies and jams made in the workshop next door; and his granddaughter Germaine would go on to create the famous “Hédiard baskets.”

While specialities continued to flow in from the entire world, Hédiard has actually constructed its own legend. It possesses closely-guarded secrets for mustards and biscuits, and original blends of the finest coffees and teas, including the famous “Mélange Hédiard” [Hédiard blend]. These are accompanied by 70 types of rare and fascinating spices, as well as jams, fruit jellies and marzipans, a speciality of the house.

All this great food is complemented by an exceptional wine cellar with a collection of the world’s best vintages. Hédiard also has a restaurant, where the chef Vincent Carayon develops innovative applications of Hédiard's products. Guests climb the central timber staircase and sit at the table to savour a caviar trio, before enjoying the view of Place de la Madeleine, the shop, and its array of delights. The store is celebrating its 140th birthday with elegance and refinement, but above all with the spirit of passion and discovery dear to its founder. To mark the event, 50 special products will be created to commemorate Ferdinand Hédiard’s legacy. A tasty tribute, worthy of quintessentially French good taste, the ultimate emblem of maison Hédiard.

21, place de la Madeleine 7508 Paris

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