There are so many markets in Paris, all of which are all very, very good and leave you in awe and filled with inspiration. And then there is Joël Thiébault.
Joël Thiébault comes from a family of maraîchers (market gardeners) who have been in the business since 1873. Everything he brings to the market is grown by him just a bit outside of Paris. Some of the top chefs in the city source their produce from him. Just like some restaurants boast of serving Poilâine bread, or Berthillon ice-cream, you might find your menu read something like this: “légumes de Joël Thiébault,” stating unequivocally the source of the vegetables.
Be it the Boule D’or (golden ball) turnips, flowering coriander, colorful radishes, curly kale, violet rocket or tie-dye beets, you’ll find it all here. I doubt there is anything Joël Thiébault doesn’t grow, given that he has over 1500 varieties of herbs and vegetables on his roster. At the market on Avenue du Président Wilson, Joël Thiébault’s stall stands somewhere in the middle – you’ll quickly realise which one it is when you sell a long line of people patiently waiting their turn by dense piles of fresh produce.
When you’re at Joël Thiébault’s stand you’ll notice that the mounds of produce aren’t arranged perfectly, aren’t identical in shape and don’t look like they are waxed for extra sheen and moisture preservation. Unlike at most produce stalls, you are even allowed to fill your own baskets – which I take as an excellent sign of quick turnover.
Last week, when I asked for a kilo of a mixed beets – the vendor went over and picked out a few in every colour: golden, red, white and the candy stripe kind. He paused, held the basket of beets away from him, almost as if putting it at a distance will give him better perspective, and said to his colleague, “C’est très jolie, non?” (It’s so beautiful, isn’t it?). It’s these little things that matter – knowing that the people who grow and sell you your food do so with so much passion and knowledge. It’s always these little things.
This week, I went back to Joël Thiébault and bought some purple kohlrabi. I sliced it thinly and tossed it with a little bit of olive oil and fleur de sel, a kilo of gnarly baby ratte potatoes (the kind that Joël Robuchon uses for his famous potato purée) and twisty, skinny courgettes. I made the courgette into a sort of “spaghetti” that I warmed through in olive oil, tossed with basil and toasted walnuts and topped with a good dollop of crème fraîche.
I will be back next week.
Tuesdays and Fridays: Rue Gros, Paris 75016
Wednesdays and Saturdays: Avenue du Président Wilson, Paris 75016