If you’re anything like me, you barely give Paris’ bouquinistes a passing glance if you happen to be strolling along the Seine. Assuming that they are selling overpriced art nouveau posters and street sign magnets to tourists, you keep your eyes forward, and may even cross the street to avoid the hassle of dodging the looky-lous.
Well, sometimes (say, when the Tour de France is coming through), you have no choice. The only escape route is along the crowded sidewalk. This is how I stumbled across Alain Huchet’s stall. Making my way up the Left Bank between the Pont des Arts and the Pont Neuf, a very old, possibly first edition, copy of Ma Cuisine by Escoffier caught my eye. Then I noticed Le Guide Culinaire. And the limited edition boxed set of Alain Ducasse’s Le Grand Livre de Cuisine and Desserts et Pâtisserie. It was a veritable treasure trove of French gastronomy in print.
M. Huchet, the genial proprietor, seeing my immediate interest in some of his rarest and most expensive volumes, started pulling out more cool, hard-to-find, and classic French books, all about my favorite subject: food! He tried, unsuccessfully, to sell me a vintage copy of the Larousse Gastronomique (I already have one from the ‘60’s, I explained). But he piqued my interest with a bright yellow paperback tome entitled La Cuisinière Provençale. “C’est LE grand classique,” he told me. I vaguely remembered looking at this book on Amazon.fr several months ago, and seeing that his price was in line with that one, I had a good feeling he wasn’t in the business of ripping people off.
In addition to the impressive collection of old and rare volumes, Huchet also stocks newer, more accessible cookbooks of all types. France’s celebrity chef contingent is well-represented, with books by Joël Robuchon, Pierre Hermé, Paul Bocuse, and Pierre Gagnaire front and center. But I’m sure there are many hidden gems, too, just waiting for the dedicated foodie to unearth them. For the compulsive decorator, Huchet has an array of food and wine-related prints and menus (some original, some mass-produced, priced accordingly).
The shop has been open every time I’ve walked past, and Huchet confirms that he’s there every day, especially in the afternoons. Perfect for that last-minute gift or Sunday afternoon retail therapy. Plus, you might just get some dinner ideas, too.
Alain Huchet: Gastronomie & Oenologie
Quai Conti, across from l’Hôtel de la Monnaie, 6th
Mº Pont Neuf, St-Michel
Tél 06 16 09 79 57
This article in French lists a few other bouquinistes who sell rare cookbooks: http://cadran-hotel-gourmand.com/bouquinistes-sur-les-quais-de-seine/