`Deborah Rogers, Trailblazer for California Olive Oil - Olive Oil Times

Deborah Rogers, Trailblazer for California Olive Oil

Dec. 14, 2010
Lori Zanteson

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The story of California olive oil can­not be told with­out the recog­ni­tion of Deborah Rogers. A trail­blazer in the California olive oil indus­try, her con­tri­bu­tions are far-reach­ing. Impeccably atten­tive to detail and pas­sion­ately dri­ven to pro­duce only the high­est qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil, Deborah Rogers (appro­pri­ately well- known as the Olive Queen) has earned the respect and admi­ra­tion of this indus­try that she has worked so tire­lessly to lift to its cur­rent posi­tion.

She works tire­lessly to ensure the high­est qual­ity stan­dards are upheld.- Ed Stollman, The Olive Press’

Rogers’ influ­ence touches every aspect of the indus­try from the mill and retail to con­sumer edu­ca­tion and the olive oil com­mu­nity. She grabbed hold of a ris­ing inter­est in olive oil in the early 90s, set up two five-gal­lon drums of oil in her din­ing room and sin­gle­hand­edly blended, siphoned into bot­tles and sold it. It was absolutely hys­ter­i­cal,” she laughs, yet so very char­ac­ter­is­tic, even then, of her inde­pen­dent spirit. She cre­ated a brand, took on a part­ner and grew the com­pany into an indus­try leader.

When she sold the com­pany in 1998, she stayed on as pro­duc­tion man­ager over six brands but left the next year when a push toward quick growth com­pro­mised the qual­ity of the olive oil. I couldn’t tol­er­ate the con­tin­u­ing decline in qual­ity stan­dards of the olive oil going into the bot­tles,” explains Rogers. It’s this unre­lent­ing integrity that today earns The Olive Press, her com­pany with part­ner Ed Stolman, recog­ni­tion as the most award-win­ning olive oil in the United States, and the recip­i­ent of pres­ti­gious awards in Spain and Italy.

I’ve learned most every­thing the hard way,” Deborah says in reflec­tion, or at least on my own. I’ve really grown up with the indus­try and strug­gled through the grow­ing pains of pro­duc­ing a qual­ity brand and mak­ing sure con­sumers under­stand what an incred­i­ble food olive oil is. I’ve been fight­ing the good fight the whole way.”


Currently in the throes of her eleventh har­vest with The Olive Press, Rogers is clearly in her ele­ment. The best part of pro­duc­ing olive oil, she says, is the day we start the mill and smell the very first olives being crushed. Glorious! It’s so incred­i­bly organic, nat­ural, alive. If you could smell the color green, it would be new oil com­ing out of the mill. It just doesn’t get any bet­ter to me.” Stolman, who works closely with her, admires her pas­sion and intense focus. Deborah watches over every load of olives that are pressed at our facil­ity,” he says. She works tire­lessly, espe­cially dur­ing har­vest, to ensure the high­est qual­ity stan­dards are upheld.”

Because edu­cat­ing peo­ple about qual­ity olive oil is built right into The Olive Press, vis­i­tors watch Rogers and the olive oil process through glass win­dows before step­ping into California’s first olive oil tast­ing room to learn about dif­fer­ent vari­eties and styles. The great­est joy for me,” says Rogers, is try­ing to demys­tify olive oil.” Everyone who is lucky enough to walk through The Olive Press doors will walk away know­ing not only where the olives came from and how they were milled, but what to do with the oil at home. She gets a lot of feed­back from peo­ple who tell her, I can’t go back” to infe­rior olive oil.

Rogers believes the com­mit­ment to pro­duce only the high­est qual­ity olive oil is the com­mon bond between those in the indus­try. I don’t just sup­port my brand,” she says, I’m a staunch sup­porter of the indus­try world­wide.” For Rogers, this means not only spend­ing time in the mill, but also reach­ing out to edu­cate con­sumers and actively par­tic­i­pat­ing in the olive oil com­mu­nity. Colleague, Alexandra Kicenik Devarenne, Sonoma County-based olive oil con­sul­tant and edu­ca­tor, cred­its Rogers as an extra­or­di­nar­ily skilled taster,” and long-time taste panel mem­ber who has been an incred­i­ble sup­porter of the California olive oil indus­try, gen­er­ously shar­ing her amaz­ing knowl­edge and insight.” Rogers has judged olive oil com­pe­ti­tions in the US and abroad.

As California’s olive oil indus­try grows, it will con­tinue to rely on pro­duc­ers as knowl­edge­able, ded­i­cated, and pas­sion­ate as Deborah Rogers to make it thrive. Respected by her col­leagues, hon­ored by the indus­try and val­ued by any­one for­tu­nate enough to hear her speak about olive oil, this Olive Oil Queen has def­i­nitely earned her crown.

Each year, Olive Oil Times com­mends the achieve­ments of olive oil pro­duc­ers who make an out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion to the indus­try. These indi­vid­u­als or com­pa­nies set the stan­dards of excel­lence for the rest of the indus­try to fol­low and influ­ence the qual­ity, vari­ety, value, and edu­ca­tional infor­ma­tion avail­able to olive oil con­sumers.

Often these lead­ers have over­come for­mi­da­ble and endur­ing chal­lenges, or through inno­va­tion found new ways to advance olive oil qual­ity in a prod­uct range, in their com­mu­nity or through­out the world.

With an eye to the past we rec­og­nize the olive oil maker who has man­aged to pre­serve or pro­mul­gate olive oil’s cul­tural legacy. Looking to the future, we’re hon­or­ing the pro­ducer who works to ensure the place of olive oil in our lives and those of gen­er­a­tions to come.

The Olive Oil Times Producer of the Year award may be bestowed upon an entire orga­ni­za­tion or a par­tic­u­lar olive oil maker. This rec­og­nizes the fact that pro­duc­ing olive oil can be both a col­lab­o­ra­tive endeavor involv­ing many hands and an indi­vid­ual expres­sion of per­sonal cre­ativ­ity.

Read about the other win­ners of the 2010 Olive Oil Times Producer of the Year award.


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