History of La Maison

Debauve & Gallais, a taste for excellence.

Founded in 1800 by Sulpice Debauve, King Louis XVI's pharmacist, the company combines excellent know-how, innovation and a rigorous search for balance between gourmet and health chocolates, the useful and the pleasurable, as indicated by the founder's motto, borrowed from Horace: Utile Dulci!

Pharmacist to the King in 1779, Sulpice Debauve, a doctor's son, focused his research on cocoa. The scientist was aware of Marie-Antoinette's infatuation with chocolate, which reminded the Queen of France of her Viennese childhood. So, to help ease the headaches of the sovereign who complained of the bitterness of her "medicines", he mixed the remedy with cocoa, adding almond milk to soften the taste. The queen, enchanted, named these medallions "Pistoles". Previously consumed as a drink, Sulpice Debauve invented chewable chocolate.

In 1800, the pharmacist set up his own chocolate house and became chocolatier to the First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte. To celebrate the Friedland victory, Sulpice Debauve developed the recipe for Croquamandes, the first chocolate-coated dried fruit, based on an idea shared by Carême and the emperor himself.

In 1819, he moved to 30 rue des Saints-Pères, on the Left Bank of Paris. The prestigious architects Percier and Fontaine, who designed the Château de la Malmaison, the arc of the Louvre carrousel and the arcaded buildings on rue de Rivoli, were commissioned to design this temple to gourmet delights.

The elegant hemicycle counter, reminiscent of an apothecary's dispensary, designed by the two fashionable decorators, and the facade, featuring Sulpice Debauve's motto "Utile Dulci", are listed as historic monuments.

In 1823,  his nephew Jean-Baptiste Gallais, also a pharmacist, joined him, and the company developed and distributed “health chocolates.”In La physiologie du goût, the founding text of gastronomy published in 1826, the gastronome journalist Brillat Savarin cites the virtues of health chocolates: "Following the enlightenment of a holy doctrine, Sulpice Debauve also sought to offer his many customers pleasant medicines against certain illnesses. Thus, to underweight people, he proposes analeptic chocolate with Salep; to those with delicate nerves, antispasmodic chocolate with orange blossom; to the irritation-prone, chocolate with sweet almond milk, to which he will no doubt add ‘chocolate for the distressed,’ amber and dosed secundum artem.”

In 1820, to map cocoa plantations, Jean-Baptiste Gallais toured North and South America. On his return, he carried out a rigorous classification of the Clos, a work of reference published in 1825 under the title Monographie du cacao.

In 1825, chocolatiers Debauve & Gallais were awarded the title of supplier to the kings of France, and for the coronation of Charles X created a chocolate in the shape of a fleur-de-lys.

Among the company's many innovations was the discovery in 1838 of the first milk dehydration process, lactoline, the basis of modern pastry-making.

This discovery is evidenced by a patent that can be seen on private tours of the salon on the rue des Saints-Pères.

The numerous medals won by the founders' descendants at the World Fair (1867, 1878, 1889, and 1900) prove the company's constant drive to push back the limits of excellence and innovation without sacrificing the essential gourmet taste.

The gold medal won in 1878 at the national exhibition in Antwerp for "Chocolat Eclair", an instant chocolate preparation, is a perfect example.

The house has weathered every crisis, resisted every change of regime, and has been celebrated by the greatest writers of their time, from Balzac and Proust to Rimbaud and Baudelaire.

."Everything at Debauve & Gallais has a style, a character, a meaning.”

This description, borrowed from Anatole France, clarifies and justifies the philosophy of an institution that has embodied France for more than 220 years and enchanted the most demanding palates. 

Like a family secret handed down from generation to generation, Debauve & Gallais, truer than ever to its motto Utile Dulci, invites gourmets, young and old, to uselfulness combined with pleasure.