The Quatrehomme cheese shop on rue de Sevres in the 6th arrondissement, has felt like home since I discovered it a couple of decades ago. I’m sure it is the luscious and complex dairy aroma which enfolds when I walk in the door, along with the singsong “Bonjour” from whomever is behind the counter. Each time I stop for just a moment to inhale, and I say to myself or whomever is with me, “This aroma is the heart and soul of France.”
Loyalty in Cheese
A bit dramatic, you ask? Perhaps, but bear with me. Because there is more. There is always a line waiting to be served and as you join it, you are cleverly led through a world of cheeses stacked in appealing piles before you get to the counter. I gaze upon the slabs of Comte or Cantal, quickly appraise the bright white to ash-covered goat cheeses as I wait, trying to decide which cheese I’ll serve after the meal I’m going to prepare for dinner. Sometimes I just watch the theater that plays out as the very competent staff helps each customer choose the perfect cheese for their needs. What’s even better is when a familiar customer arrives at the counter and a staff member reaches for a cheese before being told what the customer wants. That’s loyalty, I think, when your tastes are known so well you don’t have to say a word.
Quatrehomme Fromager Affineur is a family affair, which was opened in the 1930’s as a small grocery in in the 5th arrondissement, on rue Mouffetard by the couple Surget. After the war, the couple’s daughter Aliette married the Surget employee Claude Quatrehomme, and the two opened a fromagerie called La Maison de Fromage on rue de Sevres. In the late 1970’s, Aliette and Claude’s son came to work for them, and when he married Marie, she did too. Eventually, La Maison de Fromage became Quatrehomme Fromager Affineur and today there are four Quatrehomme boutiques within the confines of Paris, and a fifth in nearby Issy-les-Moulineaux.
First Female Meilleur Ouvrier de France in Cheese
Marie Quatrehomme became the first woman in France to be awarded a Meilleur Ouvrier de France in cheese, an esteemed honor which she worked hard to obtain, for it is awarded only to those who are experts in their field, and she proved herself an expert on cheese and its aging. She worked in the shop and in the cheese aging caves, and the reputation of her cheeses spread far and wide. The shops are a destination to those who love cheese, and restaurants who serve Quatrehomme cheeses number among the finest in the land. In 2014, Marie Quatrehomme was awarded the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur, which is the highest French order of merit.
Today, the Quatrehomme’s son, Maxim, and their daughter, Nathalie, have taken over the Quatrehomme world of cheese, managing the boutiques and keeping the authenticity and quality of the business while ensuring it evolves with the times. As Nathalie states in our interview, she is absolutely open to any good cheese from anywhere, as long as it fits the family’s quality criteria. Meanwhile, she and her brother keep up the good relations that her parents and their parents before them established with the best cheese producers in France, to ensure the finest cheeses to those who walk into the shop and allow themselves to be enfolded in the aromas, and the quality, of French cheese.