Major Interview

Collini sows seeds and harvests taste

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Christophe Collini is one of those who has changed how he lives in order to give meaning to it. A former executive at Siemens in Morocco, he led a busy professional life, full of stress and responsibilities. His former lifestyle is a distant cry from his current one, where the commotion of big cities has been replaced by the chatter of birds. Now, the only constraints that weigh on him are those imposed by the seasons.

Return to the land

We met with Christophe Collini in Saint-Pever, in the Côtes-d’Armor (22), ten kilometers from Guingamp. It was here were he put down his roots in 2011, at the age of 46. Was it a return to the source (his parents live nearby)? “No, it was more like a real wake-up call. When my daughter was born in 2003, I could no longer accept the world in which we were living!” he responded.

He began with a long period of introspection, then a search for land where he could grow rare aromatic plants and forgotten vegetables. In the time since, Christophe Collini met his partner Rachel while making his way through the market, and the adventure of market gardening thus became the business affair of the couple. But let us not forget, there is also Emilien, an intern who lends them a strong hand.

Collini, the “hunter of taste”

Today, Christophe Collini’s collection of seeds are starting to take up a lot of space on the first floor of his Breton farmhouse. Over time, he has disseminated his ideas, reaping some success with chefs eager for new taste experiences. Today, he works with twenty-some restaurants, straddling the line between Brittany and Paris.

This is someone who defines himself as a “hunter of taste“, digging through the internet and flushing out rare, or “extinct”, varieties during his travels and through seed exchanges with enthusiasts from around the world (from Latin America to the Far East and Europe). Each seed is a pretext for a savory tale: the old Uzbek who entrusted him with a pepper threatened with extinction can now thank him… Through the passion – and patience – of Christophe, the pepper has been saved!

From collection to Conservatory

Once collected, he begins his period of experimentation: he works to acclimate the seeds to Brittany’s climate and soil. And the results are in. A proponent of biodynamic agriculture and self-learning, he currently grows 1,400 different varieties of fruits and vegetables. On his 3.5-hectare estate, he cultivates turnips, pumpkins, cabbage, eggplant, tomatoes, mesclun, squash… not to mention aromatic plants.

A member of Semences Paysannes, Christophe Collini is well aware that only this work of saving seeds will allow for the preservation of biodiversity. It is an action of value and activism. At a time of monstrous alchemies made by Bayer-Monsanto-Syngenta, Christophe Collini does not plan on stopping there. The next step will be the creation of a Conservatory of Taste, where he plans to share his once extinct varieties with market gardeners, to put them back into cultivation, and to enable them to find their way into market stands… and fine restaurants. (Video in French)

Photos: Copyright Goûts d’Ouest