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27 Complete Sommelier Program in San Francisco

They join a growing network of olive oil professionals and enthusiasts after completing the six-day, two-tier course in the city's Marina District.

Sep. 30, 2019
By Daniel Dawson

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Twenty-seven olive oil enthu­si­asts and pro­fes­sion­als have com­pleted the ninth edi­tion of the six-day Olive Oil Som­me­lier Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Pro­gram in San Fran­cisco pro­duced by the Olive Oil Times Edu­ca­tion Lab.

Atten­dees from nine dif­fer­ent coun­tries across four con­ti­nents gath­ered in San Francisco’s Marina Dis­trict to learn about a wide array of olive oil-related top­ics, rang­ing from how to assess olive oil qual­ity to the best olive cul­ti­va­tion, har­vest­ing and pro­duc­tion prac­tices. Olive oil health ben­e­fits, chem­istry and stan­dards, among many other top­ics, were also cov­ered.

I was amazed at the amount of infor­ma­tion con­veyed to us in a rel­a­tively short amount of time,” Marci Wei­de­miller, an olive oil retailer and writer from Venice, Florida, told Olive Oil Times. The instruc­tors shared equally from their heads and their hearts, and that pas­sion [was] very con­ta­gious.”

Hav­ing now been armed with this knowl­edge, we are sure to make bet­ter deci­sions.- Yian­nis Assi­makopou­los, aspir­ing olive oil pro­ducer

Equipped with new knowl­edge of olive cul­ti­va­tion, oil pro­duc­tion and chem­istry, Wei­de­miller said she planned on expand­ing olive oil tast­ings at her retail store.

Show­ing that we are will­ing to invest our time, energy and money into expand­ing our knowl­edge demon­strates our ded­i­ca­tion to our staff, our cus­tomers and sets us apart from our com­peti­tors,” she said.

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While Wei­de­miller is already in the process of writ­ing a book about olive oil enti­tled Sacred Fruit, she said she was sur­prised to learn about the nuances of detect­ing defects in olive oils and what those defects mean about spe­cific fail­ures in the pro­duc­tion process.

See more: Olive Oil Edu­ca­tion

“[Learn­ing about] the abil­ity to pin­point spe­cific, often solv­able prob­lems by iden­ti­fy­ing defects [sur­prised me],” she said. Rather than just being lumped together as bad,’ there is a sec­ond-chance oppor­tu­nity to learn, cor­rect and hope­fully improve future pro­duc­tion.”

Patrik Roz­ina, a Croa­t­ian olive oil pro­ducer at Dimnik Estate, was among those in atten­dance who was look­ing for tips to help improve his future pro­duc­tion.

After earn­ing Gold and Sil­ver Awards at the 2019 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Com­pe­ti­tion, Roz­ina told Olive Oil Times he wanted to learn more about global olive oil trends.

The course was very well orga­nized with a lot of pro­fes­sion­als from the olive sec­tor,” he said. My favorite part was all of the tech­ni­cal pre­sen­ta­tions. I have a good knowl­edge of the olive oil pro­duc­tion process, so the sur­prise for me was more on the tast­ing part, where they taught me a lot.”

Roz­ina will take what he learned and apply it to the com­ing har­vest in Croa­tia. Look­ing for­ward to NYIOOC 2020, Roz­ina said wants to get every pos­si­ble advan­tage that he can.

Just like at the eight pre­vi­ous edi­tions of the course, atten­dees came from a wide array of back­grounds and dis­ci­plines, each look­ing to learn some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent.

Xueqi Li, the assis­tant direc­tor of the UC Davis Olive Cen­ter, spends her days con­duct­ing research on olive oil qual­ity and authen­tic­ity as well as coor­di­nat­ing short courses about olive cul­ti­va­tion, tast­ing and milling.

She told Olive Oil Times that she had long wanted to attend the course and looked for­ward to gain­ing a bet­ter under­stand­ing of what is hap­pen­ing in the olive oil world as well as meet­ing other olive oil pro­fes­sion­als.

I was impressed by how diverse peo­ples’ back­grounds were and how much we could learn from each other by just talk­ing about olive oil,” she said. My favorite parts were being able to taste so many award-win­ning olive oils from dif­fer­ent regions, how thor­ough and resource­ful the instruc­tors were, and my class­mates.”

Li spends a lot of time as a researcher ana­lyz­ing the chem­i­cal pro­files of the same olive oils vari­etals from both the North­ern and South­ern Hemi­spheres. She said that being able to taste them brings her under­stand­ing of the dif­fer­ences in their chem­i­cal pro­files full cir­cle.

I under­stand how sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent their chem­i­cal pro­files could be some­times,” she said. How­ever, being able to taste them side by side helps greatly in terms of under­stand­ing the whole pic­ture of a spe­cific vari­ety.”

Tim Hughes, the food­ser­vice sales direc­tor at Mill­press Imports, also came to the course look­ing to learn more about the finer points of olive oil qual­ity in order to share solid knowl­edge with clients.

I took this course to give me a stronger sense of why this food is so impor­tant,” he told Olive Oil Times. It was amaz­ing to be able to lis­ten and learn from such an accom­plished panel of teach­ers and judges. They under­stand the busi­ness, the qual­ity of the prod­uct needed, and how to make it from har­vest to bot­tle. ”

Hughes said that he is a chef at heart and has worked as one for more than two decades. He will use what he learned in the course to con­tinue edu­cat­ing his clients, many of whom are also chefs, about how they should be using and cook­ing with extra vir­gin olive oil.

This will help me tremen­dously in work­ing with own­ers and chefs to intro­duce them to a very high-qual­ity prod­uct and edu­cat­ing them on how to pur­chase, store and use extra vir­gin olive oil,” he said.

What sur­prised me was how del­i­cate the process is from har­vest to pantry,” he added. The olive is such a com­plex fruit and if it is not taken care of it can fall apart very quickly leav­ing a poten­tial crop in jeop­ardy.”

While many atten­dees of the course were vet­er­ans in the field of olive oil pro­duc­tion, retail­ing or research, Yian­nis Assi­makopou­los came to the course to get his olive oil career started.

For the past few years, I have been acquir­ing land in the Greek coun­try­side with the aim of cre­at­ing a farm­ing estate for our fam­ily and future gen­er­a­tions,” he told Olive Oil Times. The olive oil som­me­lier cer­ti­fi­ca­tion course was the ideal choice as it exten­sively cov­ered top­ics such as olive oil qual­ity and stan­dards, farm­ing and har­vest best prac­tices, chem­istry and defects, advance milling and recent inno­va­tions.”

Assi­makopou­los added that he was impressed with the depth, pas­sion and orga­ni­za­tion of the course. He plans to apply all that he learned to start a fam­ily tra­di­tion of olive oil pro­duc­tion — one that he hopes will bear fruit.

Hav­ing now been armed with this knowl­edge, we are sure to make bet­ter deci­sions when pro­ceed­ing with our fam­i­ly’s dream of our olive estate,” he said.

The next Olive Oil Som­me­lier Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Course will be in Lon­don. Reg­is­tra­tion is open through the Olive Oil Times Edu­ca­tion Lab web­site.


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