`La Tête dans Les Olives - Olive Oil Times

La Tête dans Les Olives

Apr. 20, 2011
Guillaume Le Roux

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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 the 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 strong 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 the 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 every­day use as in Sicily.

After hav­ing sold in Paris the 100 kilos of the fam­ily friend Marco, he returned to Sicily where he met Leo who told him to come to the mill in order to see how it func­tions. He said to me: you are going to use the machines, you will quickly under­stand.’ Two months work­ing with the machines was a tremen­dous learn­ing expe­ri­ence, it is mechan­i­cal, not magic.”

Why is the oil extracted within 24 hours after har­vest­ing?

We con­sider that the ben­e­fits of the oil are related to its resis­tance to oxi­da­tion, as time passes it oxi­dizes, and it is the same con­cept for the olive.

Olive oil that was improp­erly han­dled will oxi­dize faster. This oil will have less resis­tance to exter­nal fac­tors. It is for this rea­son that we say it should be extracted within 24 hours. In fact, it is very dif­fi­cult to do so dur­ing the har­vest.

I am priv­i­leged in my area. Marco, Domenico, Anita, Paula, for all these peo­ple who belong to my region of Santa Paluta, we all call the mill and we grind the same day. 48 hours will still be ok.

The pro­duc­tion involves mechan­i­cal extrac­tion because the olive con­tains water and it is the only fruit that pro­duces oil. That’s why we don’t need to use heat, mechan­i­cal pro­cess­ing is suf­fi­cient.

The machine then crushes the olives includ­ing the core to cre­ate a paste. I’m going to move the paste to warm it instead of using direct heat, as move­ment cre­ates heat. I never let the paste reach a tem­per­a­ture above 27 degrees Celsius. After that, you throw your paste into a cen­trifuge and you’re gonna get a nat­ural divi­sion between oil and water. I want my machine clean. I don’t want a bad odor such as that of gas.

To improve his tech­ni­cal knowl­edge, he’s done the har­vest every year for the last 7 years. He believes it is essen­tial to gain knowl­edge from prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence and exper­i­men­ta­tion. ” All my work con­sists of col­lect­ing infor­ma­tion, espe­cially when the olive oil comes from a thou­sand-year-old tree or is made with olives rarely used to make oil.”

What he likes in olive oil is its length or intense aro­matic per­sis­tence (IAP), one that has a bite to it. Olive oil is tasted in a small glass that you warm by hold­ing in your hand. The best moment of the day is the morn­ing when your taste buds are awak­ened.

The life of olive oil begins when it comes out of the machine and ends when it’s no longer extra vir­gin, and when it becomes ran­cid. The nat­ural cycle for olive oil would be a year: it’s pro­duced in October so let’s say from December to December you’ve got a nat­ural cycle.”

The last word? The secrets for a good olive oilare a good olive and a good machine. Above every­thing, a good olive oilis made by a good per­son. It’s the con­science with which the earth and the trees are treated. It is not because he treats the olive with a spe­cial love or sings under the trees but rather from good work: it is easy to clean your house, it’s easy to work the land.”

It means he will have made a prod­uct the way it should be. This is the most impor­tant thing accord­ing to me, that’s why it’s essen­tial to give the pro­duc­ers the chance to cre­ate their own mar­ket.”

Lastly I want to open a store in New York City, Cedric says, because it is the clos­est to Paris and I have many clients who come from there to buy and eat at my store. Anthony Bourdain came here, he ate and shot his show in my place.”

La tête dans les olives
2 rue Sainte Marthe
75010 Paris

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