Paris has its first ever traditional French cheese maker.
Entrepreneur Pierre Coulon, 35, opened his production area which also doubles as his shop, La Laiterie de Paris, just before Christmas selling organic, fair trade, regionally-sourced products in the 18th arrondissement, just a few minutes’ walk from Montmartre.
It is surprising that, despite France’s reputation for cheese, Paris has not had its own maker of traditional French cheeses before, although mozzarella is made in the capital.
“In other countries, including the UK, there has been a tradition of producing cheese in cities but in France it has always been more about regional production,” explains Mr Coulon, as he darts back and forth in the premises on the rue des Poissonniers.
Unpasteurised cows’ milk for the cheeses is delivered twice a week from the Seine-et-Marne department, around an hour’s drive away.
“I absolutely wanted it to be organic. It’s a great producer with a herd of Normande cows,” he said. He also has deliveries of goats’ milk for cheese and sheeps’ milk for yoghurt coming in.
He plans a variety of produce, from goats’ cheese to blue cheese, a Mirabelle-liqueur finished cows’ cheese and a cheese washed in the local beer, brewed just a few hundred metres away at the Brasserie de la Goutte d’Or.
Making use of what is available locally is important to him. “The cheese is a 100% local product and a nod to this area, which is a great place for an experiment like this.”
The project was mostly crowdfunded, with over half of the contributors coming from the 18th arrondissement. The Paris city authorities, which are aiming to diversify the area’s shops and in particular encourage more food retailers, quickly found him a site. “I really wanted to take inspiration from the energy of this neighbourhood,” Mr Coulon adds.
The Goutte d’Or neighbourhood is a traditional working class Parisian quarter, transformed by immigration from France’s former colonies in Africa. Now, young professionals, entrepreneurs and start-ups are moving in, changing the face of the neighbourhood.
Even if he has started his new venture in a fast-changing area of the city, Mr Coulon does not want to be seen as a gentrifier – he plans to sell his cheeses at affordable prices with a small round cow’s cheese priced at €4, rather than the €5.50 he says a similar product would normally sell for in a Parisian cheesemonger. He believes the area has a real need for its own cheese shop. “There is a shortage of good bakeries and wine shops – and don’t even get me started on cheese.”
Mr Coulon has come to Paris via a circuitous route: a masters in psychology, a stint on a farm rearing goats himself, travels throughout the US and Canada, a spell working for a master cheesemaker and a cheese-themed pilgrimage across France and further afield, learning the techniques he needed to set up on his own.
Having learned how hard it is to make a living with a dairy herd, he plans to support them. “Life as a farmer was difficult: there is a big disconnect. Farmers are not valued at all,” he says.
“I pay €0.75 a litre for cow’s milk, versus the standard price of €0.33. It’s not in my interest not to pay a proper price because even if I get rich the producer will go out of business.
“Paying a higher price for the milk also guarantees better treatment for the animal that supplies it and if I’m paying a fair price that allows me to be demanding about quality.”
First successes for new Made in Paris label
Some 250 producers in the capital have taken up the label Fabriqué à Paris according to figures released in December.
The label was launched in October 2017 and, with the first honour going to a ham created the 11th arrondissement, initially covers three categories: artisan food, artisan production (for functional products) and creative products (clothing and jewellery).