Jean-Benoit Hugues is a man with a mission. His mission? To produce the best olive oil from the Vallée des Baux, the best olive oil from France, the best olive oil in the world.
Jean-Benoit used to design silicone chips, a far cry from the Provencal olive trees that were so beautifully depicted by Van Gogh. But if you apply the same precision to growing olives as you do to producing the working innards of a computer, and the same precision to designing the pressing machinery, you are well on the way to achieving your goal. And it certainly helps if your co-missionary, your wife Catherine, comes from a famous wine-producing family who know a thing or two about growing things.
The traditional way of producing olive oil in the Vallée des Baux was to harvest the olives, let them ferment for a couple of days and then press them to give a fruity, black olive and slightly mushroomy flavoured oil that legally was not allowed to be sold as extra-virgin. Jean-Benoit changed all that. He harvested his olives young, he pressed them very carefully within hours of harvest, and he produced a vibrant, green oil that hummed with the flavours of fresh fruit, herbs and spices.
And then he thought that he would do what they have always done in the Vallée, but do it better. He now produces a delicious Fruité Noir, which has been a great success with chefs around the world.
And, by the way, he is now an advisor to one of Italy’s foremost oil press producers, and helps them improve their extraction machinery for his benefit and for the benefit of oil producers world-wide.