`Culinary Event Provides User’s Manual for Cretan Olive Oil - Olive Oil Times

Culinary Event Provides User’s Manual for Cretan Olive Oil

Mar. 27, 2012
Elena Paravantes

Recent News

It all started when the University of Gastronomic Sciences, based in Italy and founded by the inter­na­tional non-profit orga­ni­za­tion Slow Food, decided to incor­po­rate the Greek island of Crete as a des­ti­na­tion for stu­dents study­ing the Cretan-Mediterranean diet.

Biolea, an olive oil com­pany in the area of Kolymbari in north­west­ern Crete that spe­cial­izes in arti­sanal pro­duc­tion of organic olive oil was cho­sen to present authen­tic tra­di­tional olive oil to the culi­nary stu­dents vis­it­ing from Italy.

Yiorgos Dimitriadis, owner of Biolea didn’t just set­tle on a sim­ple tour of the facil­i­ties, instead he orga­nized a gas­tro­nom­i­cal event with chefs from Crete’s best hotels who pre­pared Cretan spe­cial­ties for the vis­i­tors. Why? According to Dimitriadis We believe that our food prod­ucts, in order to suc­ceed, must be use­ful for the con­sumer. That can only hap­pen if we show our vis­i­tors how we use these prod­ucts in our cui­sine.” In other words, it’s not enough to just have excel­lent olive oil, you need to show how it is used.

This year Dimitriadis decided to take it a step fur­ther. He invited culi­nary stu­dents from two Cretan culi­nary schools, IEK Chanion and OAED Tavrinioti, to com­pete” and pre­pare local del­i­ca­cies for the Italian vis­i­tors in an effort to not only show how olive oil is used in Cretan cui­sine but also to pro­vide an exchange of ideas, thoughts and philoso­phies among the stu­dents.

The stu­dents from the University of Gastronomic Sciences had the rare oppor­tu­nity to learn how olive oil is used in the Cretan cui­sine and to taste tra­di­tional dishes such as kalit­sou­nia — lit­tle dough pies filled with veg­eta­bles or cheese, rare wild greens cooked in olive oil, olive paste and many more Cretan del­i­ca­cies.


These dishes were not only impor­tant from a culi­nary per­spec­tive but from a health stand­point. The food pre­sented were rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the diet that the peo­ple of Crete had back in the 60’s when they had the low­est heart dis­ease rates, the high­est intake of olive oil (almost all dishes have olive oil as their main ingre­di­ent), and the high­est life expectancy in the world.

The exper­tise of the Greek culi­nary stu­dents was appar­ent by the way they rolled out home­made phyllo and with the ease they twirled strips of paper thin dough around a fork to make per­fectly formed honey drenched sweets. However, what is sur­pris­ing is the fact that the Greek stu­dents did not learn these tra­di­tional Cretan recipes at their respec­tive culi­nary schools, but out­side of school on their own time from their fam­i­lies and friends. These are recipes they grew up with, but yet are not taught in their schools.

But shouldn’t a culi­nary school in Crete teach the local cui­sine? This is a ques­tion that was raised after the event. In fact the cur­ricu­lum of these schools focuses on con­ti­nen­tal cui­sine. While this is impor­tant, it is equally impor­tant that the local cui­sine is also taught, pro­mot­ing the use of local ingre­di­ents such as olive oil, wild greens and lamb. And this is even more impor­tant if that local cui­sine hap­pens to rep­re­sent one of the health­i­est diets in the world, the Cretan diet. Perhaps events such as this one will raise aware­ness about this par­tic­u­lar issue and encour­age the teach­ing of Cretan cui­sine in all Greek culi­nary schools.

This year the event was a suc­cess. Not only did the Italian stu­dents receive, a shall we say, users man­ual” for olive oil in the Cretan cui­sine, but it resulted in an unex­pected oppor­tu­nity for the Greek stu­dents; they will be vis­it­ing the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy later this year.


Related Articles

Feedback / Suggestions