La Tête dans Les Olives (the head in the olives) is a tiny store on a popular street in Paris. There you’ll find all the olive oils in flasks and bottles brought from Sicily by Cedric Casanova. It’s not just a store, it’s also a private restaurant that serves lunch. Cedric will give you a taste of his favorite Sicilian delicacies.
It started with the olive oil he enjoyed every summer during his family holidays. When summer ended they returned to France with dozens of litres to last the whole year. “My favorite aspect of the product was the kind of instinctive smile that it brought,” Cedric remembers.
In his teenage years, his passion for animals took him to the circus. He was discovered by Manuel Dos Santos, a man who was a master of the tightrope, who saw potential in Cedric’s sense of balance and offered to mentor him. That began thirteen years of traveling and performance, thirteen years where the body was thought to be, above all, an instrument used for work, and the pleasure of eating would come after.
When he turned 31, it was time for a change. New life plan: six months in Sicily and six in Argentina with his girlfriend. But these plans changed when his sister got pregnant and Cedric did not want to be this “uncle from America” (French expression for a distant, uninvolved relative) and also because he had been already traveling nonstop since his teenage years.
So he went to Sicily and brought back 100 kilos of olive oil to Paris, which was sold within just four days. From this came the idea of creating his own small business.
After all he knew the product very well, the people who produced it and he had a dual-perspective — the Sicilian’s view of an everyday staple and the Northern European’s discovery of something new. With this knowledge he could identify himself as a “passeur“.
“I had the desire to share a development with the olive oil producers from my region in Sicily. I told them: ‘We never have an idea of what we represent outside.’ I personally know both Sicilian and French palates. The understanding I have of the product on the Northern European market comes from this: I saw the French people’s reactions to the products that we brought back from Italy. For me it was normal but I recognized the product carried the strongs values that it’s produced with… the value of the gesture and the emotional reaction that it brings.”
The market value was established quickly over the span of about 30 years. Today the effect of generosity of spirit has been completely integrated.
“But I believe as long as you haven’t tasted the product,” he continued, “you hear about it, you collect datas but the only pertinent information is the one that your mouth will give you when you try the right product, it erases all the past and sets the scale of values. My own scale of value has been high from the start, I always got this notion of the right taste. People speak of my olive oils as if they are extraordinary but for me it is normal. Any olive oil should be like this. I believe this should be the norm.”
Cedric believes educating his customers is important, but not in a pompous manner. He didn’t open an unaffordable gourmet store. The olive oil has its price because of the small quantities produced but still affordable enough for an everyday use as in Sicily.