Business

31 Complete Sommelier Certification in New York

From improving farming techniques to educating co-workers and customers, these new olive oil sommeliers return home to apply and share their new-found knowledge.

May. 12, 2018
By Daniel Dawson

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A diverse group of 31 olive oil indus­try pro­fes­sion­als and enthu­si­asts, hail­ing from as far away as Greece, Bulgaria, Netherlands, Australia, Turkey and Taiwan, gath­ered in New York City to attend the Olive Oil Sommelier Certification pro­gram at the International Culinary Center in part­ner­ship with the Olive Oil Times Education Lab.

Very instruc­tive, good topics, well struc­tured and excel­lent speak­ers. I should have taken this course five years ago- Willem Voorvaart

The course lasted six days, cov­er­ing the pro­duc­tion, qual­ity man­age­ment and advanced sen­sory assess­ment of olive oil. Among the instruc­tors were: sen­sory sci­en­tist Gary Beauchamp; agron­o­mist Liliana Scarafia; NYIOOC judge and agron­o­mist, Kostas Liris; California Miller of the Year and NYIOOC panel member, Pablo Voitzuk; inter­na­tional panel leader and con­sul­tant, Antonio G. Lauro; Chilean taste panel leader and NYIOOC judge, Carol Dummer Medina; Brazilian chef and olive oil som­me­lier, Perola Polillo; ole­ol­o­gist Nicholas Coleman; Spanish olive oil edu­ca­tor and judg­ing panel member, Alexis Kerner; and Olive Oil Times pub­lisher, NYIOOC pres­i­dent and pro­gram direc­tor, Curtis Cord.
See more: Register for the September course in Campbell, CA
The par­tic­i­pants in the course had their own rea­sons for attend­ing and plan to apply their newly acquired knowl­edge in a myriad of dif­fer­ent ways. However, one thing they all had in common was how impressed they were with the qual­ity of the con­tent and the knowl­edge of the panel.

“I thought it was excel­lent,” said Jacqueline Tyburski, a dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing strate­gist for a soft­ware and ser­vices com­pany in Portland, Oregon.

“The qual­ity and range of instruc­tion were at a level that far sur­passed my expec­ta­tions. The pro­gram was very bal­anced and in depth, with a real empha­sis on train­ing a new com­mu­nity of empow­ered, knowl­edge­able, and pas­sion­ate olive oil experts.”

Tyburski said that with this new body of knowl­edge, she hopes to edu­cate chefs and con­sumers about the healthy qual­i­ties of olive oil while import­ing extra virgin olive oils to sell on her e‑commerce web­site.

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Jacqueline Tyburski

“I hope to be an active and con­tribut­ing member of the olive oil com­mu­nity, edu­cat­ing mar­kets, chefs, and con­sumers,” she said. “I’d also like to evolve my e‑commerce site to be a place of edu­ca­tion, com­mu­nity build­ing and inter­ac­tion.”

Elaine Belanger owns a food man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany in Quebec that spe­cial­izes in making extra virgin olive oil. She agreed that the course was com­plete, prais­ing the sci­ence-based lec­tures as inter­ac­tive and infor­ma­tive.

Belanger decided to take the course in order to improve her knowl­edge about olive oil sci­ence. She plans to apply what she has learned when select­ing extra virgin olive oils to import.

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“The fact that the course is given by pro­fes­sion­als from dif­fer­ent ori­gins includ­ing old and new pro­duc­ing coun­tries is very appeal­ing,” she said. “It gives a more com­plete and objec­tive under­stand­ing of the olive and olive oil world.”

Demosthenis Chronis is a mol­e­c­u­lar biol­ogy researcher and an olive oil pro­ducer from Sparta, Greece. He also joined the course look­ing for some olive oil sci­ence and pro­duc­tion insights. He plans to use what he knows to retool his pro­duc­tion line and said he aspires to one day be stand­ing on the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition podium. He viewed this oppor­tu­nity as a cru­cial step in that process.

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“[I will apply what I have learned by] going back to our pro­duc­tion pipeline from cul­ti­va­tion all the way to bot­tling,” he said. “We can fine-tune some things so we get a better qual­ity olive oil and, hope­fully, an award-win­ning extra virgin olive oil.”

Chronis said one thing that really stuck with him from the course was how dif­fer­ent cli­mates change the fla­vors of oil pro­duced from the same vari­ety of olives in the same way.

“For exam­ple, a Spanish cul­ti­var, which is pro­duced the same way in Spain, California and Latin America will have a com­pletely dif­fer­ent taste and aroma, depend­ing on where the olives were grown,” he said. The group tasted more than 100 oils from 25 coun­tries to illus­trate that point.

“This is very inter­est­ing, show­ing clearly that the sen­sory part of the olive oil depends not just the cul­ti­var and the way you pro­duce it, but also the micro­cli­mate of the place that the olive trees grow.”

Willem Voorvaart, a Dutch finan­cial investor and part-time farmer who splits his time between London and France, was also sur­prised by what he learned at the course. He thought that it was “very, very good” and enjoyed meet­ing other olive oil enthu­si­asts.

“I should have taken [this course] five years ago. Very instruc­tive, good topics, well struc­tured and excel­lent speak­ers,” he said. “The inter­est­ing thing was that all of the speak­ers were excel­lent, [which is] quite rare.”

He orig­i­nally joined the course look­ing for ways to improve his organic olive farm­ing tech­niques but also learned sev­eral new things about the olive oil market that he did not know.

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“I set up a new organic farm from scratch 12 years ago, and had quite a lot to learn about organic farm­ing,” Voorvaart said. “Now that after 12 years of hard labor we are pro­duc­ing extra virgin olive oil and now the ques­tion is, how do we go on to make a world-class olive oil?”

Voorvaart used the event as a net­work­ing oppor­tu­nity and said he has already made arrange­ments with some of the instruc­tors. He also found a poten­tial invest­ment oppor­tu­nity of which he had not pre­vi­ously been aware.

“The other thing that sur­prised me is that the Turkish olive sector is grow­ing rapidly,” he said. I will go over to Turkey in September to have a look and see if there are any oppor­tu­ni­ties out there.”

Lin Angie, a sales and mar­ket­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Taipei, Taiwan, thought the course was “fan­tas­tic” and was look­ing for busi­ness oppor­tu­ni­ties as well. She fre­quently cooks with olive oil at home and was sur­prised by how dis­tinct many of the 150 dif­fer­ent olive oils she tried during the course were.

“There’s a new trend that people in my coun­try have started to use olive oil more and more,” Angie said. “I would like to learn about olive oil in a more pro­fes­sional way and look for oppor­tu­ni­ties to start my own busi­ness.”

Miller Resor and Adam Jenschke are both American farm­ers who came to the course look­ing for knowl­edge to improve their new olive groves. Resor grows olives along with a vari­ety of other crops in California’s cen­tral valley. For him, olives are a rel­a­tively new crop.

“I decided to take the course because our family grows olives just east of Bakersfield, California on the banks of the Kern River,” Resor said. He wants to use his knowl­edge from the course to improve the fam­i­ly’s olive grow­ing and oil pro­duc­tion tech­niques.

“We are cur­rently build­ing a stor­age facil­ity to rack, bottle and label our oil. I plan to con­tinue to seek guid­ance from the olive oil com­mu­nity about how best to store, rack, filter, bottle and label olive oils. I also plan to work with an agron­o­mist this fall to ana­lyze our har­vest­ing strat­egy.”

Jenschke, on the other hand, came to the course look­ing for insights on how to begin suc­cess­fully cul­ti­vat­ing and pro­cess­ing olives on his farm in the Texas hill coun­try. He thought the course was “fan­tas­tic” and found the infor­ma­tion on every step of the process to be very help­ful.

“I will apply what I learned from the very start of the process to the very end,” he said. “From soil prepa­ra­tions to select­ing bottle types and every­thing in between, truly, every facet of the process was cov­ered [at the course].”

However, not every­one who came to the course was look­ing for pro­fes­sional tips. Some came purely out of their enthu­si­asm for and inter­est in olive oil.

One such indi­vid­ual is Ann Bartyzel who works in the insur­ance indus­try in New York. Ever since she vol­un­teered at a local soup kitchen, food has shaped Bartyzel’s world­view.

“I vol­un­teered for a few years at a soup kitchen that was highly focused on qual­ity and fresh­ness,” Bartyzel said. “The chef there had a huge influ­ence on me and since then I have been on the look­out for food-related courses and ways to chal­lenge myself.”

She did not know very much about olive oil before attend­ing the course and said she was sur­prised by what she learned and tasted.

“The course was eye-open­ing and led by inspir­ing experts,” Bartyzel said. “I was sur­prised by how much my taste buds learned in only a few days.”

The next Olive Oil Sommelier Certification Course will be offered September 10 – 15, 2018 at the International Culinary Center’s Campbell, California campus. Registration is online via the Olive Oil Times Education Lab web­site.