Award-Winning Miller Says Goodbye to Pacific Sun

Pablo Voitzuk leaves California's Pacific Sun Farms in the wake of the company's decision to shut down its olive oil production mill after seven successful years and a plethora of awards.

Pablo Voitzuk (Photo: NYIOOC)
Jun. 10, 2018
By Daniel Dawson
Pablo Voitzuk (Photo: NYIOOC)

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After a seven-year stint with Pacific Sun Farms, miller Pablo Voitzuk has left the com­pany. His depar­ture comes after another suc­cess­ful award sea­son for one of California’s most acclaimed brands and the deci­sion by the com­pany to wind down their olive oil business.

Love for olive oil cre­ates a par­tic­u­lar bond, which makes me think that we’ll stay con­nected, one way or another.- Pablo Voitzuk

Pacific Sun Farms’ olive oils received 17 awards across four dif­fer­ent com­pe­ti­tions this year, includ­ing four Gold Awards and one Silver at the 2018 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition. This recog­ni­tion is an excel­lent note on which to end my asso­ci­a­tion with Pacific Sun Farms. The com­pany has decided to end their olive oil pro­duc­tion,” Voitzuk wrote in a blog post. Pacific Farms is mostly ded­i­cated to farm­ing wal­nuts, prunes and almonds. Olive oil was a sec­ondary enterprise.” 

In spite of all the suc­cess Voitzuk enjoyed at Pacific Sun Farms, the com­pany strug­gled to turn enough of a profit in the enterprise. 

Making money in the olive oil busi­ness is noto­ri­ously dif­fi­cult, mainly due to a lack of con­sumer knowl­edge about high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil, which results in many sim­ply select­ing the cheap­est oil on the shelf. 

In these years, the olive oil sec­tion grew a lot, both in quan­tity and qual­ity,” Voitzuk told Olive Oil Times. It became quite dif­fi­cult for the com­pany to keep up with it next to their main activ­i­ties. And most impor­tantly, the econ­omy of it. We’re at a point in which we’d need invest­ment and Pacific Sun Farms has those other priorities.” 

During his tenure with Pacific Sun Farms, Voitzuk was instru­men­tal in adopt­ing new olive oil pro­duc­tion processes which he learned dur­ing his time study­ing in Italy. These included using new crush­ing tech­nolo­gies, work­ing with lower tem­per­a­tures, min­i­miz­ing malax­ing times and imme­di­ate fil­tra­tion, among others. 

By closely man­ag­ing these processes, Voitzuk sought to empha­size the impor­tance of achiev­ing high lev­els of phe­no­lic con­tent in the olive oils. He said phe­nols are both crit­i­cal” and essen­tial” to the pro­duc­tion of high-qual­ity olive oil and some­thing that every miller should keep in mind. 

All that has con­tributed to an ongo­ing con­ver­sa­tion among pro­duc­ers and tast­ing panel mem­bers about these and related sub­jects that I find quite pos­i­tive,” he said. Those prac­tices have proven that you can make good olive oil out of any olive, and that it’s never an olive vari­ety that pro­duces prob­lems in the out­com­ing olive oil. As I always say: the olive is inno­cent, it’s what we do with it.” 

Voitzuk is cur­rently milling olives in Greyton, New Zealand, at The Olive Press. This is his sec­ond sea­son in the coun­try, where olive oil pro­duc­tion is in its fledg­ling stages. When he returns to the Northern Hemisphere, he plans on work­ing on sev­eral projects in the Mediterranean with his col­league, Marco Scannu. 

Voitzuk said he enjoyed his time work­ing in California, first with Apollo Olive Oil and then Pacific Sun Farms. Olive oil pro­duc­tion is an evolv­ing field, he said, and it is impor­tant to keep learn­ing about the prod­uct while main­tain­ing a non-con­formist attitude.” 

Voitzuk does not have many regrets about his time work­ing in California, he said, but if he could go back and do it all over again he would empha­size the impor­tance and ben­e­fits of mak­ing olive farms organic. 

If I could go back I’d try to con­vince more olive grow­ers to adopt organic agri­cul­ture,” he said. I advo­cated for it, though I’ll do it way more. I see mul­ti­ple ben­e­fits by mov­ing away from an agri­cul­ture that is based on indus­trial pes­ti­cides. The good news is olives are a crop that is rather eas­ily con­verted into organic. It’s quite doable.” 

Voitzuk will teach in the Olive Oil Sommelier Certification pro­gram at the International Culinary Center’s Campbell, California cam­pus this September and said he would like to judge again at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition next year. He also believes that the bonds cre­ated through the cama­raderie of olive oil will keep him in touch with his friends and col­leagues from the West Coast. 

Love for olive oil cre­ates a par­tic­u­lar bond, which makes me think that we’ll stay con­nected, one way or another,” he said.


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