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  • Ian Gray

From Réunion coconuts to candies in Paris.

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

Valérie Baudard, who resides in Paris, originally from Etang-Salé on the Ile de la Réunion, left her career in finance to pursue her passion in confectionery.

When we talk about DME VCO we are usually speaking about empowering people in remote island villages to produce a sustainable and commercially viable product right where they live, using the sustainable resource at their doorstep – coconut, also known as the Tree of Life.

Here we are speaking about it a little differently. Valérie Baudard who resides in Paris, was originally from Etang-Salé on the Ile de la Réunion. She left her career in finance to pursue her passion in confectionery which started as a child after visiting the local Sucrerie du Gol sugar factory in Réunion. “I felt like I was looking at one of Jules Verne’s mechanical wonders”.

Etang-Salé (French for The Salty Pond) is bordered by the districts of Les Avirons and Saint-Louis. Within the district is the Étang-Salé forest and a beach with black sand that is a popular surfing spot. “Along with my wonderful memories of growing up on Ile de la Réunion, I have memories filled with adventures and exciting discoveries of tropical flora - from my regular return visits in later years with family, my grandmother, aunts, uncles and many cousins.”

Valérie’s passion is not just any confectionery but delicious delicacies made from only the highest quality ingredients such as Bourbon vanilla from a co-operative in the north of the Island, pepper from her aunt’s garden and coconut, sugar cane, arrowroot, cumin, turmeric, and other spices sourced from her family’s Creole garden which her now-retired parents, with their ‘green thumbs’, are responsible for. They grow an heirloom variety of sugar cane that is no longer used at the Island’s sugar production factory. The latter now only uses varieties developed by the INRAE, that is France’s National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment. After an opportunity to work with her family’s sugar business, Valérie returned to study and obtained the Confiserie-Chocolaterie CAP. Then she set out to follow her dream. “Paradoxically, despite my business school and my MBA, I think the diploma which I am most proud of is my confectionery CAP. It was a fabulous experience. I loved learning the technical skills.”

The transition from high level finance to confectionery was not too difficult as Valérie discovered there were many similarities. As CFO on boards and committees there is no place for guesswork. The figures need to be precise. Confectionery requires the same level of accuracy. When you are required to heat sugar to 130 degrees, it must be 130 degrees, not 131 or 129. This level of technical precision is paramount for successful outcomes.

In 2016 La Caille Blanche (The White Quail) was born. The ingredients in Valérie’s recipes are, wherever possible, quintessentially Reunionese, and the methods stem from many years of local craftsmanship. Valérie’s ultimate goal is to promote Reunion’s know-how and continue tradition passed down from generation to generation. “I like what is beautiful, and what is good, even if it takes time and returns only a small profit. I simply design products that I am proud of.”

Valérie set up her ‘lab’ just outside of Paris. The lab gives her freedom to experiment and perfect her creations. The distance from France to Ile de la Réunion is an asset for this creative designer of confectionery, "The advantage of being far away allows me to have more perspective on the associations of flavours and ideas." She adds, "What I love about confectionery is being innovative and creative, but also being in charge of my cauldrons, my pots, and creating new recipes".

It was a natural progression for Valérie to want to process her coconuts herself. The only solution which suited her ability and boutique size was Kokonut Pacific’s DME Press Kit including grater. The DME Press doesn’t take up a huge amount of room and can be operated by one person.

In 2019 Valérie made this crazy leap and purchased the DME Press.

Today she is able to produce premium grade Virgin Coconut Oil by her own hand as well as produce desiccated coconut. All of these handcrafted quality ingredients she uses in her confectionery. Occasionally Valérie has milled flour from the dried meal for a few of her recipes, but she is working on the know-how & correct technique to produce a shelf-stable flour to ensure its quality.

Valérie Baudard produces high end artisan confectionery for lovers of ancient flavours of yesteryear. They include coconut candies, rouroute (arrowroot) candies, 4-spice cookies, and fruit jellies. Her signature products are the “white and black quails” – almonds caramelised with cane sugar, then coated in white or dark chocolate. After only six months of her opening La Caille Blanche, Valérie’s delicacies found their way into Parisian confectionery shops and shops on Ile de la Réunion. You can even buy them via her e-shop. You can learn more about La Caille Blanche by reading the blog articles on her website.

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