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Valentin Humer is a classically trained Austrian chef. Inspired by his father who cooked the family meals, Valentin wanted to be a chef – on a boat – ever since he was a kid. He grew up with a big garden at home and knew the benefits and flavors of eating fresh, healthy food.
Valentin worked in 5 star restaurants around the world, including Switzerland and England, before ending up in New York City at the Marriott Marquis on Broadway, where he met his wife Nanette. He worked in the hotel restaurant industry for a total of 12 years throughout Europe.
His career led Valentin to his current business, Salute Santé rapeseed Oil. While working in New York City, he became interested in grapeseed oil as an ingredient in his cooking. He did some research and learned about the many health benefits of using grapeseed oil. But he also learned of the challenges in manufacturing a product that was consistently good. Color, price and availability varied greatly. Valentin used his connections in the food industry to speak with Chef Jean-Louis Palladin, the youngest French Two Star Michelin chef who was working at his name-sake restaurant, Jean-Louis at the Watergate in Washington, Dc at the time. Chef Palladin had been using grapeseed oil in France for the past 25 years. He agreed with Valentin’s conclusions that there are many health benefits to grapeseed oil, as well as challenges with getting a consistent product. He encouraged Valentin to pursue his interest in finding a way to produce a high quality product that could be produced with consistently good quality at a reasonable cost.
This coincided with Valentin’s decision that cooking in the corporate world was no longer for him. So he took his interest in producing a fantastic grapeseed oil product, and made it happen. In 1993, Valentin and Nanette moved from Manhattan to Northern California to be closer to the grape seeds! Salute Santé was founded in 1994. The name means “to your health” in Italian and French. The same family oil makers that produced the Chef’s Choice still produce Salute Santé! to this day.
From the Salute Santé website, we learn that it is “Healthy & Nutritious – It’s an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamin E and essential linoleic acid. Compared to olive oil it’s almost 50% less saturated fat and almost 10x more essential linoleic acid. Studies have shown that grapeseed oil may raise HDL good cholesterol, lowers LDL bad cholesterol and triglycerides, which may reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Our oil contains 0 Trans Fats and is BPA free.”
Grapeseed oil also has a great light, slightly nutty taste, it’s lighter than olive oil and doesn’t leave an oily taste behind.
Valentin made it his goal to make cold pressed grapeseed oil in California. The seeds of many wonderful grapes are available after wine production. The challenge was to find a machine for cold pressing that was able to process the small, hard grape seeds. It took 15 years to create the perfect machine.
Now, the presses are running 24/7 at Food and Vine, Inc., producing 13 different oils.
Salute Santé follows the cold-pressed rules in Austria, which are very strict. Throughout the manufacturing process, the product never goes above the temperature that the plant is exposed to in its natural environment. That would normally mean lower than 100-105 degrees; however, Salute Santé stays around 80 degrees throughout the process. Products that are expeller pressed can be exposed to heat that goes to several hundred degrees. By keeping the process cool, the vitamins and antioxidants are preserved.
Valentin started out early on by creating a taste panel of the top NYC French elite chefs. He asked Daniel Boulud, Jean Georges Vongericten and Jean-Louis Palladin to judge the best grapeseed oils being made at the time. Valentin imports his seeds and oil from the best producers in the world, including the original oil producer selected by the original taste panel.
The grapeseed oil industry has grown a lot and there are a lot of cases where the quality is suffering. Salute Santé is the only brand with a third party certification for 100% pure grapeseed oil. They send seeds from their growers to a lab, which takes out the oil and does a fatty acid profile. That creates the “finger print” of the oil, and must match the oil in the package to be 100% pure.
All Salute Santé products are non-GMO verified by the Non GMO Project. Their oils are certified Kosher as well.
The company is also concerned about the environment. They use packaging that can be 100% recycled, such as their steel cans.
Their product is also 100% “upcycled”, because they are using parts of the grapes which would normally be discarded by the wine manufacturers.
They are making a zero waste food. After cold pressing the oil from the seeds, the “defatted” seeds are milled into a grapeseed flour. In addition, the skins and stems from the grapes are separated from the seeds and used for composting.
Salute Santé is certified green by Green America.
In addition, Salute Santé as won several awards for their products. Including numerous sofi awards, the Gold Medal from Quality Institute International and the American Tasting Institute.
Valentin feels that they have just scratched the surface of what is possible with their grapeseed products. He feels that the grapeseed flour could be a new superfood. Currently, most white flour is over-processed, stripped of any nutritional value, from wheat that has been genetically modified so much that the body can’t recognize it. By adding naturally gluten free grapeseed flour to white flour, we can add nutrition back into our foods. Out in California, one can find Wine Country flapjacks, breads cookies, pasta and chips made with the Salute Santé grapeseed flour. Their flour has been tested to have an Orac* value of 77,000 units! The company is working on baking mixes.
Valentin’s passion for his business comes through loud and clear. He loves the challenge of continuously creating something new. The business allows him to remain connected with the food industry, only on the supply side instead of being in the kitchen on a daily basis. And producing a healthy and delicious product is a win-win for him.
JN Kidds is proud to have been a distributor of the Salute Santé grapeseed oils for many years.
*ORAC Values: Antioxidant Values of Foods & Beverages. The antioxidant values of foods listed are expressed in ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) units, a unit of measurement for antioxidant content which was originally developed by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)