“The ‘dehesa’ allows many peasant families to survive”

Florence Châtelet Sanchez, founder of the Dehesa house, in Paris, June 7, 2022.

“Coming from a Franco-Spanish family of craftsmen and farmers, wine producers and pig breeders, I was immersed from an early age in the culture of taste and traditional craft practices. I grew up between Paris and El Puerto de Santa Maria, in Andalusia, at the bottom of the bay of Cadiz, where we lived almost six months a year because my mother did her business there. Suffering from Asperger’s syndrome as a child, I communicated very little and my parents thought that my silence came from the fact that we were constantly moving from one country to another.

My passion for good food comes mainly from my father, a Franco-Lebanese who grew up in the Maghreb, who cooked a lot. He liked to mix cultures on the plate and French, Lebanese and Moroccan cuisines. Everything was homemade, the food was sacred to us. For my father, who also spoke very little, taste was a form of communication, gift, transmission. I had incredible flavor combinations in my mouth from a very young age and it is thanks to him that I am able to conceptualize the different tastes and know what the combined ingredients will give on the palate. It is also this sensitivity that brought me to this profession.

“I became aware of the urgency of preserving these traditions and these artisanal products. I decided to devote myself fully to it by founding Maison Dehesa, to promote their products to great chefs. »

I studied at Sciences Po Paris, a bit of political activism in France, war reporting in the former Yugoslavia, then a career in ethical finance in Geneva. When I was 30, I was the victim of a serious skiing accident which almost left me disabled. I went to do my rehabilitation with my mother, in Andalusia, in the region of my childhood, in the heart of a dehesa.

The dehesa, it is an area of ​​communal exploitation in a forest zone where local farmers can come to cultivate and graze their herds in the middle of the undergrowth. It is a traditional system, whose operation is based on Mediterranean ecosystems, which has great social importance in Spain because it allows many peasant families to survive.

Read also: Sardine sushi: Florence Châtelet Sanchez’s recipe

During my convalescence, I rediscovered the wealth of this environment and notably met a family of pata negra producers – craftsmen who preserve the soil and plant and animal biodiversity, while producing healthy and tasty food – at the edge of the bankruptcy. I then became aware of their importance, of the urgency to preserve these traditions and these artisanal products. I decided to devote myself fully to it by founding Maison Dehesa, to promote their products to great chefs.

Today, I work with 16 micro-producers and I offer a hundred references: black pork charcuterie, Iberian ham, but also bottarga, olive oils, vinegars, black garlic, garum, marinated anchovies… Not to mention smoked sardines, which are one of our flagship products. In pure sashimi, or in sushi on a small ball of fluffy rice, it’s my favorite dish, and a nod to my passion for Japan and to the great Jiro Ono, nonagenarian and starred sushi master in Tokyo, whose I love the job. »

Maison Dehesa website

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