Úbeda Hosts Second Conference on EVOO

Spain celebrated the Second Conference on Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Well-respected speakers covered topics on health, product promotion, farming practices and gastronomy.

Photo of Maria José San Román by Pepe Nieto
Sep. 28, 2016
By Alexis Kerner
Photo of Maria José San Román by Pepe Nieto

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The Second Conference on Extra Virgin Olive Oil last week in Úbeda focused on health and her­itage. Even well after the sun­set, atten­dees could still be found in the streets shar­ing a beer to fur­ther dis­cuss what they had learned dur­ing the day.

The Center for Interpretation of Olive Oil and the Olive Grove along with the Olive Grove and Oil Association of Jaén orga­nized the event. Their pri­mary goal is to pro­mote olive oil cul­ture on all lev­els. They not only sup­port tourism, edu­ca­tional activ­i­ties and pro­duc­ers but also orga­nize events like the one that took place this week.

The con­fer­ence had well-respected speak­ers that cov­ered top­ics on health, prod­uct pro­mo­tion, farm­ing prac­tices and gas­tron­omy.

The first speaker was Eduard Escrich, direc­tor of the Department of Physiology at the Faculty of Medicine of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB). He leads the Multidisciplinary Group on Breast Cancer Study, which has many national and inter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tors, two of which are in the United States: Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia and Georgetown University in Washington.

For 32 years the group has stud­ied the effect that the con­sump­tion of dietary fats can have on the devel­op­ment and growth of can­cer. Their find­ings have shown that, although the con­sump­tion of extra vir­gin olive oil does not cure can­cer it can delay the appear­ance, reduce the malig­nancy and slow its growth.

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Escrich rec­om­mended a daily intake of 3 to 5 table­spoons (50 ml or about ¼ cup) of EVOO for healthy indi­vid­u­als. For those com­bat­ting can­cer, he sug­gested a lower dose of olive oil. He then explained that patients in recov­ery should con­sume a very low dose of EVOO and focus on essen­tial fatty acids.

The next speaker was Francisco Garcia Mendoza, the direc­tor of IberOleum. IberOleum is a new guide about extra vir­gin olive oil in Spain that com­piles the Spain´s best-rated olive oils accord­ing to its top olive oil tasters, the year´s olive oil data, chefs and orga­ni­za­tions.

I met up with Garcia after the event to inquire more about the guide. He said they have made the guide dig­i­tal so that sub­scribers can always have the infor­ma­tion on hand and be able to com­pare year after year the posi­tions of their favorite oils. He hopes to offer the guide in English and in Chinese.

Next up was Victor Perez from the award win­ning olive oil, Finca la Torre. Perez spoke about their groves and how they imple­ment bio­dy­namic farm­ing prac­tices. Biodynamic meth­ods empha­size a holis­tic, eco­log­i­cal and eth­i­cal approach to farm­ing. Finca la Torre not only prac­tices nat­ural ways of farm­ing but they also give back to the com­mu­nity by pro­mot­ing social events.

He explained that although a seal for bio­dy­namic can be a plus in coun­tries like France and Germany where the prac­tice is known and appre­ci­ated, he often removes the seal for sales in coun­tries like the United States where it can con­fuse con­sumers.

After a cock­tail lunch with olive oil pair­ings, Juan Vilar spoke on sales strate­gies. He told the pro­duc­ers in the audi­ence that to make high grade EVOO was just not enough. Some of the pro­duc­ers looked on in dis­be­lief as Vilar claimed that their hard work didn’t cut it. However, He went on to explain the impor­tance of mak­ing their brand dif­fer­ent from oth­ers, inno­va­tion, send­ing out a mes­sage to con­sumers and pro­mo­tion of their prod­ucts.

Last but not least, came Maria Jose San Román. San Román is the owner and chef of the restau­rant, Monastrell, located in Alicante for which she has earned a Michelin Star.

She has taught audi­ences how to use olive oil through her cook­ing demon­stra­tions. In Úbeda, it was no dif­fer­ent and her zeal for the prod­uct was evi­dent. However, she missed the American audi­ence. She told the Spanish atten­dees she gets a much bet­ter recep­tion in the United States. They are always so eager to learn.

Her mes­sage was clear. We must edu­cate the Spanish con­sumer on olive oil. She made the com­par­i­son to wine in the 1980s. Spanish peo­ple had no idea what good wine was before the pro­duc­ers went to restau­rants to do tast­ings and to edu­cate them. Now, we must do the same for olive oil.

Her restaurant´s menu not only describes the main ele­ments of each dish, but also the type of olive oil being paired with the plate. Starters to desserts con­tain olive oil. She claims that it makes all the dif­fer­ence and is her secret ingre­di­ent.

Her rec­om­men­da­tion to those from Jaén, use Picual olive oil with arti­chokes. It is the per­fect pair­ing.

To close the event, awards were given out to Escrich, San Román, the pro­duc­ers of Oro Bailén, and to the Interprofesional del Aceite de Oliva Español for their ded­i­ca­tion.

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