Meet Pierre Coulon, Paris’ First Cheesemaker

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Meet Pierre Coulon, Paris’ First Cheesemaker
While France is home to upwards of 1,000 distinct cheeses, nearly none are made in Paris. It makes sense, of course: Paris is not home to a preponderance of sheep, goats, or cows. But for Pierre Coulon, founder of La Laiterie de Paris, that was far from an obstacle. In 2017, he became Paris’ first intra-muros cheesemaker, and now, six years later, he’s still one of the most innovative pros on the local cheesescape. Coulon did not always intend on producing cheese in the French capital. He got his start in a far more traditional way: making chèvre in the Loire-Atlantique. It wasn’t until his associate decided he was ready to sell the business that Coulon was forced to consider his next steps. “I didn’t want to have a farm again,” he says. “And I didn’t really want to go back into cheesemaking. I knew I wanted to found something else, but something really different.” Inspired by American urban cheesemakers in San Francisco, Coulon zeroed in on Paris as the ideal setting for his new venture: not just selling cheese, in the vein of a more typical fromager, but actually exercising his craft within the city limits. Photo credit: Laiterie de Paris Fromagerie Instagram For his main ingredient, Coulon eschewed wholesalers at Rungis in favor of smaller dairies in Normandy and Brittany, who provide him with raw goat and cow’s milk within 24 hours of it leaving the udder. He transforms the milk on-site at his rue des Poissonnières fromagerie in eastern Paris; today, his creations number around 15 at any given time, evolving and changing according to his whims and above all the seasons. Summer may see basil and apricot bedecking his fresh chèvres; come autumn and winter, there are porcini mushrooms and truffles to layer in his lactic cow’s cheeses. In spring, fresh herbs and bear garlic come center-stage, and all year long, spices from Nomie and Rollinger add fresh flavor and flair. Inspired by his neighborhood’s Arab communities, he often lends Middle Eastern accents to his creations: Brie may be filled with dates and almonds; goat cheese may be crowned with za’atar, hazelnuts, and honey. Photo credit: Laiterie de Paris Fromagerie Instagram Like his Parisian colleagues, Coulon also sells delicacies from around the Hexagon. But here, too, Coulon seeks to break from the norm, offering lesser-known specialties that hew to his values of raw milk cheese made by independent producers. His washed-rind Epoisses hails from the only raw-milk farmer-producer of the cheese in existence; his raclette is flavored not just with more typical black pepper or mustard but chile and even CBD. He takes a “militant” approach to Comté, France’s most-produced cheese, with a selection dubbed imparfait – imperfect. “They’re Comtés that taste really great, but they have little flaws in the pate,” he explains, indicating tiny bubbles or discolorations in these discounted wedges. “It’s not always flagrant.” And as opposed to many other fromageries in Paris, Coulon keeps his selection of pressed cheeses tight. Photo credit: Laiterie de Paris Fromagerie Instagram
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Lead photo credit : Photo credit: Laiterie de Paris Fromagerie Instagram

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Emily Monaco is an American journalist based in Paris. Her work has appeared in the BBC, Saveur, Atlas Obscura, and more. She is the host of the podcast "Navigating the French" and pens a weekly newsletter, Emily in France, with tips for dining (and cheese-eating) in Paris and beyond.