`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

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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.

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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.

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