UN OCÉAN DE SAVEURS

ANTOINE NICOLAS

THE ALGAE HUNTER

by / Monday, 05 March 2018 / Published in FANZINE, OUR LOCAL PRODUCERS

NAME

Antoine Nicolas

 

COMPANY

Un Océan de saveurs

 

PRODUCT

Sea vegetables and seafood harvested on demand and Fourchette bleue certified, meaning that they are produced responsibly for healthy management of marine resources in the Saint Lawrence River.

In other words, the company collects, processes and distributes 15 varieties of Gaspé seaweed, harvested year-round, delivered throughout Quebec and available at more than 60 locations across the province. They also distribute sustainable seafood products, including lobster and shrimp.

 

BACKGROUND

The company was founded in 2011 in Cap-aux-Os, a village surrounded by Forillon National Park in Quebec’s Gaspé region.

 

TRAINING

Mr. Nicolas is a highly skilled diver (SCUBA and freediving), holds a master’s degree in food science and technology (focussing on seafood), and has training in aquaculture. A member of the Ordre des agronomes du Québec (OAQ), he is also a researcher in seafood processing at Merinov (Quebec’s centre for innovation in aquaculture and fisheries), as well as a diving instructor (freediving).

 

INITIAL SPARK

Antoine harvested seaweed for the first time during a summer job in his native Brittany. He soon felt the desire to start a company combining seafood, aquaculture and the smart processing of these products. While pursuing his master’s degree, he did an internship in the Gaspé region. Here, he would dive for three to four hours at a time under extreme conditions, including pack ice and a temperature equivalent to minus 50 °C. Antoine found these conditions not chilling, but charming! He had found a magical place to live!

 

BIGGEST CHALLENGES

Promoting his products. “Here, we are less accustomed to eating seaweed,” says the man who includes seaweed, in more than one form, in his three meals a day! We know that seaweed, with its high protein and mineral content, ranks among the “superfoods.” For example, it contains twice as many vitamins and minerals as fruits and vegetables, fresh wakame provides 20% more calcium than milk (when dried, it contains 10 times more!), and green nori has 41 g of protein per 100 g, for only a little over 200 calories!

Halfway between food and a dietary supplement, seaweed is an excellent source of fibre, stimulates the immune system and may have anti-cancer properties. “Our challenge is to promote the many flavours and uses of seaweed. You can just as easily put it in a cocktail, a salad or a dessert. The goal is to integrate it naturally into your daily diet, as a condiment or an ingredient in its own right.

 

NICE SURPRISES

The Gaspé is a postcard! I live in a postcard!” The fact that this diver/harvester’s work environment is “extreme, but very beautiful,” is his nicest permanent surprise. “Sometimes it appears to be snowing under water! When ice crystals are suspended in the sea, it’s magical!”

 

INSPIRATIONS

In the category of “starting a business based on your convictions and with a project you care about,” Antoine’s inspirations include Sylvain Huchette, a fisherman with a doctorate in shellfish farming and the founder of France Haliotis, a Brittany-based aquaculture company that produces organic abalone fed with seaweed.

He is also inspired by this quote from Steve Jobs:
If you don’t build your dreams, someone else will hire you to build theirs.

And this quote from Oscar Wilde:
Wisdom is to have dreams big enough not to lose sight when we pursue them.

 

ASPIRATIONS

Increase his selection of ready-to-use products – such as flakes that can be easily added to recipes, as seaweed is a natural flavour enhancer – as well as ready-to-eat products. For example, seaweed-flavoured chocolate, which was a huge success at recent Christmas markets in the city. “We chose three varieties that complement each other,” Antoine explains. “Wakame for its hazelnut side, royal kombu for its sweet and salty crispiness, and royal kombu for its caramel and fleur de sel flavours. When a food goes well with chocolate, it goes well with everything! That’s what we want people to discover. They may be a little skeptical at first, but are delighted after tasting the products and learning about all the possible uses of seaweed.

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HIGHLIGHTS

Un Océan de saveurs is witnessing a tide of recognition from its peers, people in the agribusiness and restaurant industries. In addition to the many stores where you can buy the company’s products, you will find many of Quebec’s greatest chefs using them.

Since its main competitors are in Asia, the company focusses on being a local business offering high quality products. In this regard, Antoine crosses his fingers for the new organic certification that he is awaiting this spring (2018).

 

FAVOURITE DISH

Seaweed tartare

Tartare d'algues Un Océan de saveurs

Ingredients:

– 30 g of dried seaweed rehydrated or 100 g of fresh seaweed
– 1/2 onion
– 1 échalote
– 2 garlic cloves
– 2 c.s. of capers
– 2 – 3 pickles
– 1 lemon juice
– 3 c.s. of tamari or soy sauce
– 1/4 – 1/2 cup of olive oil, to taste

Preparation:

Finely mix all the ingredients. Taste before adding ground black pepper.

 

ENFANT TERRIBLE SINCE 2017

Antoine met our executive chef Simon Laborde at the 2017 Expo Manger Santé et Vivre Vert.

Antoine Nicolas

Website: oceandesaveurs.ca

Facebook: facebook.com/oceandesaveurs

Where you can buy the products: Montréal: Odessa Poissionnier, Poissonnerie La Mer, Vrac & Bocaux – Épicerie Bio, Espace organique, Méga Vrac. Québec: Chez Boulay – comptoir boréal, Pêcheries Raymond Desbois – Quartier Sillery. Coming soon to the Eastern Townships.

 

Top photos credits: Xavier Girard Lachaîne, Caroline Bolieu / Algae photos: Caroline Bolieu

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