Through their mutual passion for olive oil, their sense of creativity and love of good food, two olive oil enthusiasts — one an owner producer of an established olive oil mill, the other, chef-owner of one of the world’s best restaurants — have developed an olive oil made with yuzu fruit.
This new citrus fruit started making news only about 8 years ago. Yuzu is hard to grow, expensive and rare, but it thrives in Menton, the most eastern town on the French-Italian border. Gourmets say yuzu tastes like a cross between a lemon, mandarin and grapefruit and nutritionists say it has three times more vitamin C.
Karim Djekhar, the owner of Huillerie St. Michel, and Michelin star-awarded Mauro Colagreco are not novices in olive oil matters: Djekhar has been making olive oil for over 20 years and together they have been making oils with citrus fruit since 2009 in Menton.
The say that their yuzu olive oil, called ‘Chef’s Olive Oil with Yuzu,’ is much more subtle, very different.
Djekhar said: “We pick the fruit when it’s ripe and macerate the whole fruit in extra virgin olive oil for about a month. We aim for a fruity oil but most important it must not have an over dominant citrus taste; the mix must be subtly controlled to get that unique flavor — that mix of citrus fruits, spicy with hints of mandarin so exotic, it makes you want to travel to far away places.”
Obtaining yuzu is not difficult when you live in Menton. The exceptional microclimate in this coastal city is perfect for growing citrus fruit products; they even hold an annual lemon festival called La fête du Citron.
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Mauro Colagreco is admired for his focus on the quality of his ingredients, using only the best and freshest of products. He uses his yuzu olive oil at all of his restaurants — The Mirazur, his elegant restaurant in Menton, one in Paris and two in China.
“I first discovered yuzu in Japan, and have been including it my cooking since then. We are the only ones making and using yuzu olive oil in France. We are lucky to have our very own supplier here in Menton,” he enthused.
Originally from Argentine, Colagreco has worked with the best top French chefs. He was voted top newcomer in 2006 by the influential Gault Millau Guide and 8 years later Le Mirazur was rated 11th in the San Pellegrino best restaurant list of 2014.
Djekhar said: “Olive oil is part of our heritage but what we are aiming for is to add a creative touch to our traditional cuisine. What matters most for everybody is the end product; we want fantastic fabulous food both in restaurants and at home in our own kitchens.”