24 Achieve Olive Oil Sommelier Certification After Intensive Week in California

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Twenty-four people came from as far as Hong Kong, Greece and Turkey to gain a deeper understanding of olive oil sensory evaluation at the fourth edition of the Olive Oil Sommelier Certification Program in Campbell, California last week.

Having successfully completed the six-day, comprehensive course, they joined the growing ranks of sommeliers around the world — ambassadors of olive oil who will, in turn, educate others on matters of olive oil quality, usage, and appreciation.

The attendees ranged from small producers to representatives of the very largest; from quality-control technicians to professional chefs and restaurateurs; from independent retailers to major distributors.

Over the course of the week, they were led through guided tastings of more than 130 samples of olive oil from 26 countries by instructors from Italy, Greece, Chile, New York and California.

The interactive program spanned the history and culture of olive oil, olive tree cultivation and harvesting, milling and production, health benefits and chemistry, quality management, culinary applications and food pairing and, of course, the sensory evaluation of extra virgin olive oil.

On two of the days, there were open forums, over lunch prepared by the International Culinary Center, where participants shared their own ideas and projects with the group. “What we have found is that tapping into the collective wisdom of such a diverse, international group of professionals can often expose a clear path forward for the participants’ initiatives and ambitions,” said Curtis Cord the program director, “or at the very least, build on this community, and expand our networks to make change happen.”

In fact, past participants of the program have wasted little time putting their expertise and connections to work around the world.

“Fabulous course with incredible amounts of information that can (and will) be used as a reference guide for years to come. Thank you for exposure to knowledgeable experts we were unlikely to have the opportunity to meet,” a producer from California who completed the six-day program said.

Another producer who, after the program, returned to immediately oversee the olive harvest in Turkey said, “I have learned much more than I expected. It was a very well structured and organized course.”

“An awesome course,” said a corporate chef who splits his time between California and Australia. “Very excited to stay in touch with all of my new colleagues and educate more and more.”

The program’s instructors included the Chilean expert Carola Dummer Medina; the consultant, EVOO judge and educator from Italy, Antonio G. Lauro; New York-based oleologist Nicholas Coleman; Greek agronomist, consultant and expert taster Konstantinos Liris; award-winning California olive oil producer Pablo Voitzuk; the International Culinary Center culinary director Marc Pavlovic; Agbiolab founders Liliana Scarafia and Carlos Machado; and Cord, the publisher of Olive Oil Times and president of the New York International Olive Oil Competition.

This article was first published in Olive Oil Times.

“…incredible amounts of information that will be used as a reference guide for years to come.”