18 Complete Sommelier Certification Program

Professionals and enthusiasts from eight countries who completed the six-day program at the International Culinary Center said they were eager to use their expertise to educate others and advance innovative projects.

Sep. 19, 2018
By Daniel Dawson

Recent News

A group of olive oil pro­fes­sion­als and enthu­si­asts gath­ered in Camp­bell, Cal­i­for­nia last week to attend the Olive Oil Som­me­lier Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Pro­gram at the Inter­na­tional Culi­nary Cen­ter.

The six-day course pro­duced by the Olive Oil Times Edu­ca­tion Lab pro­vided in-depth instruc­tion in olive oil pro­duc­tion, qual­ity man­age­ment, advanced sen­sory assess­ment and culi­nary appli­ca­tions.

Edu­ca­tion is the biggest tool in get­ting the Amer­i­can con­sumer to know what good oil is. Now I can bring a greater depth of knowl­edge to help them do that.- Patti Gilbride, Cal­i­for­nia Olive Ranch

It was widely hailed as a suc­cess by its par­tic­i­pants, many of whom came from dif­fer­ent parts of the indus­try and plan to apply their newly acquired knowl­edge in dif­fer­ent ways when they return to work. How­ever, one thing the par­tic­i­pants who spoke with Olive Oil Times all had in com­mon was how impressed they were with the scope of the course and the knowl­edge of the panel.

I loved it,” Patti Gilbride, a mem­ber of the sales depart­ment at Cal­i­for­nia Olive Ranch, said. I feel like, before the course, I had the bones of under­stand­ing. The course added the flesh and mus­cle to my under­stand­ing. I really enjoyed learn­ing more about the sci­ence behind the oil and how I can relate that to my cus­tomers.”

Gilbride said she plans on using what she learned at the course to bet­ter edu­cate her cor­po­rate cus­tomers.


Edu­ca­tion is the biggest tool in get­ting the Amer­i­can con­sumer to know what good oil is. For me, that starts with my buy­ers,” she said. I think I will be a bet­ter sales­per­son and resource to my cus­tomers. Retail­ers are look­ing at how they can edu­cate their con­sumers and now I feel that I can bring a greater depth of knowl­edge to help them do that.”

Increas­ing her knowl­edge about what makes dif­fer­ent extra vir­gin olive oil stand out from one another was also the rea­son Yuriko Tsun­oda, an exporter at the Sum­it­omo Cor­po­ra­tion, decided to take the course.

I got my cur­rent job at the Sum­it­omo Cor­po­ra­tion in Cal­i­for­nia eight months ago and started being in charge of sell­ing and export­ing U.S. veg­etable oils to Japan,” she said. I need to have more knowl­edge about the veg­etable oils over­all, and olive oil is the one that I am most inter­ested in.”

Tsun­oda plans on using her new­found exper­tise to assist with her selec­tion of olive oils for export. She also plans to use some of the con­tacts she made at the event to help build her net­work and pur­sue more oppor­tu­ni­ties to pro­mote great olive oils in Japan.

“[The course was] excel­lent,” she said. All the classes were inter­est­ing and we could feel the enthu­si­asm of all the speak­ers who came all the way from their own coun­tries. After expe­ri­enc­ing this course, I feel the pas­sion to become an olive oil spe­cial­ist.”

While Tsun­oda was a rel­a­tive new­comer to the extra vir­gin olive oil sec­tor, Theodora (Theo) Stephan, an olive grower and oil pro­ducer in Cal­i­for­nia, took the course ahead of her twen­ti­eth har­vest. She came to the course expect­ing to learn some more tech­ni­cal details of olive oil pro­duc­tion.

The course far sur­passed my expec­ta­tions rel­a­tive to what I already knew com­pared to what I did not,” she said. The experts asso­ci­ated with the course gave it all the more cred­i­bil­ity.”

The instruc­tors included Car­ola Düm­mer Med­ina an expert taster from Chile and a panel leader at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Com­pe­ti­tion; the renowned Ital­ian expert and panel leader Anto­nio G. Lauro; Kostas Liris, a Greek agron­o­mist and NYIOOC Panel Leader; Nicholas Cole­man, ole­ol­o­gist; Per­ola Polillo, a renowned Brazil­ian chef and cer­ti­fied olive oil som­me­lier; Pablo Voitzuk, award-win­ning miller and world­wide con­sul­tant; and Lil­iana Scarafia and Car­los Mar­chado, a team from Cal­i­for­ni­a’s Agbi­o­lab. The pro­gram is directed by Cur­tis Cord, pub­lisher of Olive Oil Times and NYIOOC pres­i­dent.

Stephan is a first-gen­er­a­tion Greek who moved out to Santa Bar­bara, Cal­i­for­nia from Day­ton, Ohio with the goal of grow­ing olives and mak­ing olive oil. How­ever, she also wants to have a more active role in shar­ing the knowl­edge she has gained in the course with every­one from chefs to ordi­nary con­sumers.

I truly hope to become a spokesper­son for the indus­try and espe­cially teach every­one from chefs to home cooks how extra vir­gin olive oil can increase the depth of their culi­nary cre­ations,” she said. I also hope to take some of the more tech­ni­cal infor­ma­tion that I learned and make it more digestible for an every­day audi­ence.”

Another attendee look­ing to add to his olive oil knowl­edge in order to share it with oth­ers was Bryan Saba. Saba is a semi­con­duc­tor hard­ware designer, but also a pas­sion­ate olive oil pro­ducer with his own busi­ness that just entered its tenth year.

I wanted to ensure that I knew what I was talk­ing about in regards to olive oil,” Saba said. We have a large farm­ers’ mar­ket busi­ness in the Bay Area. I want to teach my asso­ciate so that he can inform our cus­tomers about great tast­ing olive oil.”


In addi­tion to edu­ca­tion, Saba also took the course in order to net­work with local farm­ers and find inno­v­a­tive ways to mar­ket his prod­uct to con­sumers. He was pleas­antly sur­prised by what he learned and plans to apply it to his olive oil busi­ness.

We tasted more than 140 oils in six days from all over the world,” he said. The dynamic fla­vor pro­files made me a believer that we need to add more worldly extra vir­gin olive oil for our cus­tomers. I also learned that my extra vir­gin olive oil was just okay. I need to work on this. I need to find bet­ter sources to bring to mar­ket.”

Another of the atten­dees who was sur­prised by how much she learned was Car­o­line Robitaille, a nat­ural chef” from north­ern Cal­i­for­nia. She was not orig­i­nally going to attend but ended up tak­ing her son’s place after he had to can­cel.

I went in with all of the wrong infor­ma­tion about olive oil and I came out with a new appre­ci­a­tion for fresh­ness and qual­ity and the health ben­e­fits,” she said. Equally as impor­tant is how risky olive oil can be when improper treat­ment occurs prior to con­sum­ing.”

With her new­found knowl­edge, Robitaille hopes to become more involved with the olive oil com­mu­nity by teach­ing chefs and con­sumers how to bet­ter cook with olive oil.

I want to teach as far and as wide as I pos­si­bly can,” Robitaille said. I absolutely love the [olive oil] com­mu­nity and would love to have some sort of long-term affil­i­a­tion, in order to get to a greater num­ber of peo­ple [involved].”

In a few weeks, she will begin what she called a healthy din­ners group, pair­ing olive oils from around the world with com­ple­men­tary cuisines. After that, she plans on lead­ing a tour of a local extra vir­gin olive oil shops as part of an effort to pro­mote healthy culi­nary spe­cialty stores in her area. Even­tu­ally, Robitaille plans on lead­ing retreats that are based on her teach­ings.

While it may not be the only dri­ver behind her ambi­tious future projects, the Olive Oil Som­me­lier Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion course added to Robitaille’s pas­sion for holis­tic nutri­tion in cook­ing.

“[The course was] so much more than I could have ever antic­i­pated,” she said. The qual­ity and care that went into design­ing this course are com­mend­able.”

The next Olive Oil Times Edu­ca­tion Lab/International Culi­nary Cen­ter Olive Oil Som­me­lier Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Course will be held in Lon­don, Eng­land Jan­u­ary 20 – 25.

Olive Oil Times Edu­ca­tion Lab
Inter­na­tional Culi­nary Cen­ter
Cer­ti­fied Olive Oil Som­me­liers

Adam Ben Salah
Marisa Bloch
Molly Galetto
Patti Gilbride
Lin­coln Giles
Emily Lycopo­lus
Car­o­line Robitaille
Jenny Rus­sell
Bryan Saba
Agnes Sabat
Theodora Stephan
Zach Thorp
Say­oungu Tosku
Yi-Hui Yvette Wang
Tam­mie Ward
Doreen White­side
Grant Yuan
Tsun­oda Yuriko

Related News