Specialty Food Magazine

JUL-AUG 2012

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

Issue link: https://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/68592

Contents of this Issue


Page 206 of 207

Q&A W Q Importing a Taste of Home BY DENISE SHOUKAS hen Gisele Oriot moved from France to Houston, Texas, in 1997, she began to miss her favorite food products from home. Unable to find them locally, she decided to bring them in herself by creating The French Farm, which today imports more than 300 products from Europe, with a focus on small, family-owned busi- nesses. Here, Oriot talks about inspiration, business growth and her favorite market in Paris. What was the inspiration to start The French Farm? Moving from France to Texas is a big culture shock. Starting the company was based on the fact that I couldn't find good ingredi- ents for cooking. The stuff I used to love in France I couldn't find, so I decided to start importing. I had lived in the U.S. when I was younger as an au pair, learning English and living with a family. I always thought of coming back and starting a business. Did you have importing experience? I had no experience. I had a friend of a friend who was making this wonderful oil—Jean Leblanc olive oil, which I carry still. They are a very small mill and are famous for their oil, which they started to sell to top chefs around the world. That was how I started, with that first line, along with fleur de sel from Brittany. Your company expanded dramatically in the first eight years. Was that your intent? It really just naturally grew. I started by selling locally to chefs. Then I exhibited at the gift show in Dallas called the Gourmet Market. I was the only person importing European products; everyone else was selling salsa and chips. I think Americans like a story behind a product—when you tell them this oil is still made in the old mill...they love stories like that. After that, I did a Fancy Food Show for the first time and this is when my business really started to expand. What has been your greatest challenge? FDA regulations have become very strict. The laws and label require- ments are always changing. Working with small companies in France, they pay attention to the quality of the product but they forget about the regulations. They want to export their product but they don't follow the requirements sometimes, so I have to work with them a lot. Sometimes they do it right one time, and then the second shipment they forget to put the right label or don't send the invoice in English so I have trouble with customs. But everything is fixable. 184 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE ❘ specialtyfood.com How do you decide what to import? I focus on mostly European products, mostly French because I'm French, but also Italian products and I have a line of Spanish salt. I travel quite a lot to France to trade shows, and each time I go to Paris, I visit this wonderful store called Bon Marche. They have the best selection. I get ideas about new trends and new lines, and I also get ideas from food and cooking magazines. What's the biggest perk of your job? Meeting my customers at the trade shows, especially those who have been buying my products from the beginning and are still supporting me. It's my greatest pleasure. Also being able to travel to Europe and pick new products. If you knew you were having your last meal, what would it be? Lately, I've been craving duck confit, slow-cooked in duck fat and served with a green frisee salad. |SFM| Denise Shoukas is a contributing editor to Specialty Food Magazine. PHOTO: GISELE ORIOT

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Specialty Food Magazine - JUL-AUG 2012