-  L'Epicerie of New York City  -
         
         
     
HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY    
 
History:

       
L'Épicerie (prononced lepisri) comes from the word "épice" (meaning spice). Originally a "comptoir" (counter) where one could find and buy "épices" it became a generic name for a store where to buy everyday ingredients along with spices. This is still the term used throughout France to designate a grocery or general store. Les "épiceries" varied widly as to what customers can find on the shelves, from the simple neighborhood épicerie to the fanciest and very specialized such as Hédiard, Fauchon, or La Grande Epicerie in Paris.

L'Épicerie (www.lepicerie.com) located in New York City is the brainchild of founder Philippe-Louis Houzé. Born and raised in Paris, France, Philippe started to cook at the early age of 13 with his grandmother. Henriette Bouthier cooked every day



meals and on Sundays a more elaborate meal out of her small kitchen, located in the heart of Montparnasse, right behind the famed "La Coupole". Her small apartment became Philippe's favorite after school destination, and where he started to take notice in the art of cooking. Henriette had been taught by her mother, a private chef for a wealthy French family, and passed on the secrets of the late 19th century and early 20th grand diners' cooking.


Philippe's paternal grandparents Louis and Clotilde owned cafes in Paris and later in Normandie where the food was simple, tasteful, and always made from the finest local products.

At twenty three Philippe decided to abandon mathematics and science to instead explore the world of photography. Still-life and food photography have always been and remain to this day his forte. His first advertising campaign was for Cote d'Or chocolate (an excellent Belgium chocolate bars producer, prior to iss) with the advertising agency Kenyon Eckardt in Paris.

In 1982 after six years spent working and living in Paris, Philippe (now married to Marie, and proud parents of a beautiful one-year old daughter) embarked on a journey crossing the Atlantic before settling in New York City.

Philippe continued to photograph food and still-life (in both France and the US) and enjoyed a great deal sharing with friends and family his passion for cooking and eating. Having the luxury to work every week with the best chefs in the world is something Philippe recognized and accepted. Almost everything he now knows regarding preparing elaborate dishes comes from the kitchens of the famous chefs and restaurants that contracted his services. Michel Guérard, Paul Bocuse, Daniel Boulud, Laurent Tourondel, Jean George Vongerichten, Michel and Pierre Troisgros, Pierre Gagnaire, Jacques Maximim, Laurent Manrique, Laurent Gras are some of the chefs who recognized early Philippe's talent to capture the essence, and beauty of a dish. His fist assignment in New York City was for Sirio Maccioni of famed Le Cirque.

With a network of chef friends, and restaurant suppliers always willing to provide him with chef quality ingredients, Philippe was often the envy of his friends and guests who did not share this luxury. Finally last year Philippe started a new venture: to give home cooks, home bakers and passionates like him the ability to use the very same ingredients chefs and pastry chefs were using. By providing them with a website and a well- stocked warehouse he gave all food enthusiasts the ability to use the very same ingredients chefs and restaurants had access to.

A lot though of the professional products and ingredients usually comes in size not suitable for home chefs and bakers (who can use a 15lbs. bucket of glucose syrup in six months?). Such a constraint was not going to let Philippe abandon his project. After an intense selection of the best suppliers for a given product, each ingredient was carefully re-packed in a manageable container size suitable for home use.

Incidentally, though a great number of L'Epicerie customers are also chefs and private chefs who enjoyed and are appealed by the small sizes offered. It gives them an incentive to try and test new recipes or to order more varieties of a specific product.


Philosophy:

As chef Alain Chapel once remarked: "La cuisine ce n'est pas que des recettes" ("Cooking is not just about recipes"). Only the best products and freshest ingredients will help create the best dishes. It is our goal to provide chefs and bakers at home with the best ingredients and products that are only available to chefs and restaurants. We do not carry products easily available in supermarkets unless the brand is not readily available (ex: we carry dried pastas but only the best ones - Cipriani). We carry few olive oils but one of the brand we carry is the one Alain Ducasse used in his restaurants.

By carefully opting to open a warehouse in the heart of New York City we have allowed ourselves to have the most direct link between imported products and our customers. New York is home to some of the best restaurants in the US and the hub for all imported European products. We have also eliminated the 24/7 heated and illuminated supermarkets and gourmet stores whose shelves carry sometimes products for too long.

A fast turnaround of products in a temperature controlled warehouse where everything stay in enclosed cases is your insurance to a better product. Since many products and ingredients are also sensitive to light and UVs all our ingredients are repacked in black containers - not a design choice but a careful thought. We have also eliminated the fancy cellophane packages carried by most gourmet stores for most products. They may look beautiful on the shelves but these products cannot be resealed easily after opening and can spill too easily. We have borrowed the idea from the professional kitchen and restaurants: It should look beautiful on the plate - not just on your pantry shelves.