Paly parent-owned olive oil company wins food award

Maya McNealis, Author

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“Olive” you should hear the story behind this parent-owned, award-winning olive oil business.

Cloud 9 Orchard, an olive oil company owned by a Palo Alto High School parent, is a 2015 Good Food Awards finalist.

The Good Food Awards honor American food producers and farmers who create high quality products using their own ingredients.

The orchard, owned by Paly parent May Chevallier, has already been awarded Best of Class and Gold Medal in the 2014 Central Coast Olive Oil Competition for its French and Italian Varietals, according to the Cloud 9 Olive Oil website.

Chevallier is the mother of Paly seniors Isabelle and Claire Chevallier. Her olive orchard is seven years old.

Bottles of olive oil display Chevallier's numerous accolades. Cloud 9 Olive Oil has won several awards in the past, most recently placing in the 2014 Central Coast Olive Oil Competition. Photo by Maya McNealis.

Bottles of olive oil display Chevallier’s numerous accolades. Cloud 9 Olive Oil has won several awards in the past, most recently placing in the 2014 Central Coast Olive Oil Competition. Photo by Maya McNealis.

“I started it from scratch, with zero trees and zero water,” Chevallier said. “It’s in South Monterey County. Right now, I have over 10,000 trees.”

Chevallier was originally inspired to start her company by the lack of high quality olive oil in local stores.

“There’s no good olive oil around,” Chevallier said. “About 70 percent of the oil sold here is fake oil or adulterated oil, in every shop.”

She learned how to make extra virgin olive oil from courses and seminars offered at the University of California Davis Extension school.

“They [UC Davis Extension] wanted to and have succeeded in making California the biggest olive-growing state in the U.S.,” Chevallier said. “I attended a lot of different workshops. Now, I belong to two councils: one up in Berkeley and one down in Paso Robles. We exchange information on what to do about different problems such as frost and fruit flies.”

Cloud 9 Olive Oil is available in many local stores, including Country Sun in Palo Alto, Draeger’s Market in Menlo Park and Milk Pail Market in Mountain View. However, Chevallier said she chose to sell her products in these locations simply because they are close to home.

“Because the kids are in school, I needed to stick around,” Chevallier said.

So far, Chevallier has limited the growth of her business to the Bay Area to accommodate her daughters’ schooling, developing a loyal customer base in the Paly community. She sold her oil at the Holiday Boutique last Wednesday to help support Paly Sports Boosters. Her daughter Claire is now in her fourth season of Paly lacrosse.

Claire and May Chevallier stand next to Cloud 9 Orchard's table at the Holiday Boutique. The boutique featured many local crafts companies, and a portion of all sales went to Paly Sports Boosters. Photo by Maya McNealis.

Claire and May Chevallier stand next to Cloud 9 Orchard’s table at the Holiday Boutique. The boutique featured many local crafts companies, and a portion of all sales went to Paly Sports Boosters. Photo by Maya McNealis.

“I now have some regular customers in the school district, and it [the Holiday Boutique] helps to raise money for the Sports Boosters, which is very important because they need a lot of funds,” Chevallier said.

Chevallier hopes to grow her business starting next year.

“When the girls go to college, I can expand further,” Chevallier said. “I’m not going to sit at home in an empty nest,” she added, laughing.

Chevallier’s Italian Varietal oil was also a top scorer in the Blind Tasting amongst over 1,400 entries, according to the company’s website. The winner of the 2015 Good Food Awards olive oil competition will be announced on Jan. 8, 2015 in a ceremony at the San Francisco Ferry Building.