« This year, our efforts have been rewarded once again. Innovating to produce an ever better vanilla in terms of quality is what motivates us. What’s interesting for me? That a renowned chef admits he had never tasted such a flavour, that he recognizes my products his eyes shut and not because of their label! Excellence is what will lead Reunion Island to come out of its borders and to be known all over the world. That’s why Qualitropic represent a valuable support”, explains Bertrand Côme, manager of La Vanilleraie and member of Qualitropic since 2010.
Indeed, the vanilla producer and curer settled in Reunion has been rewarded twice at the Agricultural show : the prize for excellence for his company established in Sainte Suzanne, La Vanilleraie, for the third year in a row and the silver medal (highest distinction since no other medal has been awarded this year) for the quality of his products.
Moreover, Olivier Roellinger, restaurant owner and former three starred in the Michelin guide, commented: “He is, without any doubt, one of the best vanilla curer in the world”.
Bertrand Côme has been dedicating himself to vanilla for 28 years. As a young agricultural engineer, he joined the industry as soon as he arrived in Reunion Island in 1987.
When the Vanilla House, based in Saint André, closed its doors in 2006, Bertrand Côme understand that he must seize the opportunity and take advantage of the 40,000 visitors that that was drawn by the establishment every year. In 2009, he decided to work for himself so that he could let his desires for innovation and quality take over, things that couldn’t be possible with his former employers.
He chooses the Grand Hazier property in Sainte Suzanne, magnificently restored for the occasion by the owners: the Chassagne’s, and embarks on the adventure with four business partners, also fascinated by vanilla.
Beginnings are hard, local banks don’t want to follow. Hopefully, he gets the support of some private investors who help him to undertake his project. Today, he has created four jobs (in addition to his own), works with about thirty reunionese farmers who chose to follow him, cultivates his own vanilla and commercialize it.
Most of the production is sold in Reunion Island, in the shop of the property to tourists or local customers but also to more and more reunionese professionals who use his vanilla (restaurant owners, pastry cooks, ice-cream makers…). A little part is exported to the japanese market.
His vanilla comes in several types: beans, extract, powder bus also salt, sugar, syrup, jelly, caramel, oil and vinegar, all of it vanilla-flavoured.
Each year, more than 20,000 visitors have the privilege to discover his job, thanks to visits that are organized every day, and may go home with his products. 5 tons of green vanilla are processed every year in one ton of ready-to-consume vanilla, that is to say about 500,000 vanilla beans that are processed by hand in accordance to traditional techniques.
From : Linfo.re (picture Véronique Hummel)