Mauro Colagreco

Nestled between the moun­tains and the Mediterranean, the town of Menton is famous for two things — its micro­cli­mate (it is said to be three degrees warmer than the rest of the south of France), and its lemons. More recently, it has also been attract­ing atten­tion as the home to France’s top restau­rant, Mirazur.

The par­tic­u­lar­ity of this (Taggiasca) olive is its alarm­ingly sweet, arti­choke fla­vor.- Mauro Colagreco

The chef behind the coastal culi­nary gem is not French, in fact, but Argentinean. Over the past decade, Mauro Colagreco has been at the fore­front of trans­form­ing his adopted home­town into a hot culi­nary des­ti­na­tion. In 2017, he led Mirazur to fourth place on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants lista.

Mirazur

Colagreco draws inspi­ra­tion from local pro­duce, neigh­bor­ing moun­tains and local mar­kets. Olive Oil Times spoke with the chef about how one spe­cific local prod­uct has influ­enced his cook­ing and his career.

“Our local olive oil is a blessed prod­uct thanks to its sta­bil­ity, its rich­ness and its del­i­cate fla­vor,” Colagreco said.

Mirazur uses Taggiasca olive oil from just over the Italian bor­der a few miles from Menton. Colagreco said the oil’s mild fla­vor allows it to be com­bined with a vari­ety of ingre­di­ents.

“The par­tic­u­lar­ity of this olive is its alarm­ingly sweet, arti­choke fla­vor,” Colagreco told us, adding that it is pressed when it is mature, not green which he said con­tributes to its unique taste.

Trabajando con un molinero local de aceite de oliva, l’Huillerie St. Michel, Colagreco fla­vors some of the Taggiasca oil to com­ple­ment his dishes — like an oil with Menton lemon and gin­ger he cre­ated to fin­ish a prawn carpac­cio with green apple and lemon purée.

In busi­ness together since 2009, Colagreco and Karim Djekhar, the owner of l’Hullierie St. Michel, pro­duce a line of infused olive oils with fla­vors includ­ing tan­ger­ine, pink pep­per­corn and of course, Menton lemon.

Betarraga en costra de sal con caviar.

Their oils are infused using the same tech­nique as nearby per­fumeries.

“We infuse the ele­ments in cold olive oil and leave it to sea­son for two or three months. In fact, the bot­tles of our olive oil have the shape of a per­fume bot­tle,” said Colagreco.

The chef said he’s try­ing to cap­ture a feel­ing as much as he is a fla­vor. He recalled child­hood vis­its to his Italian grandmother’s house in Argentina.

“Every time we go to spend some time with her, she used to cook every­thing home­made,” he said. “She used to put bread on the table first because with eleven grand­sons always starv­ing she needed to find a way to get time to fin­ish the meal.”

Today, Colagreco uses his grandmother’s recipe to cre­ate his own shar­ing bread on the menu at Mirazur. It was this bread that inspired him to cre­ate fla­vored olive oils to com­pli­ment it.

“It was a spe­cial moment, a rit­ual for the whole fam­ily and when every­body felt most at home,” he said. “I wanted a spe­cial olive oil to cel­e­brate the shar­ing bread.”

For Colagreco, olive oil may be a gate­way to mem­ory, but he’s also look­ing to the future and new fla­vor com­bi­na­tions he can cre­ate with Djekhar and Huillerie St. Michel.

“We’re think­ing about new prod­ucts,” he said. “A spice maybe.”




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