By Lindsey Partos
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Paris
The first national competition in France to encourage budding young chefs at catering schools around the country to use extra virgin olive oil in their cuisine reached completion in March this year when the jury awarded a swathe of talented students with an olive oil “gastronomic trophy.”
In September 2010, the competition kicks off again, offering teachers and future chefs with free access to a range of “indispensable” tools to deepen their knowledge of extra virgin olive oil and to ultimately groom a new generation of extra virgin olive oil ambassadors.
Competition organisers Afidol – the interprofessional association for France stakeholders in olive oil – who linked up with the European Union and France’s promotional body FranceAgriMer say “the competition is an educational move, directed at the chefs of tomorrow…and to meet consumers growing demand for information about different olive oils, how they are made, and how they are used differently in cooking.”
The competition is tapping into growing awareness by France shoppers of the health and gustatory benefits of extra virgin olive oil. According to the organisers, France consumption of EVOO has “exploded” in the past twenty years from 23 000 tonnes to 100 000 tonnes with 65 per cent of households stocking a bottle in their cupboards. Indeed, EVOO consumption now falls a close second in terms of consumption, behind sunflower oil, the country’s number one oil.
And there is plenty of potential room for the market to progress: in terms of European consumption, the France are in fourth position consuming, on average, 1.5 litres of extra virgin olive oil a year. A figure that falls in the shadow of the Greeks, who pluck the number one slot, using a considerable 19 litres of EVOO a year. The Spanish are second, with 11 litres a year and in third position the Italians who pour through 10 litres, per capita each year.
Squarely targeting the ‘chefs of tomorrow’ the olive oil programme designed by the competition organisers (lhuiledolivealecoledeschefs.com) is aimed at all hotel and catering schools in France and hopes to furnish teachers with the most informative and interactive tools to help set up activities with their pupils and to widen their knowledge of extra virgin olive oil.
Accordingly, teachers can opt for a tasting kit with various test tubes holding a range of eight different oils to taste and smell, including two “off” oils. The spectrum spans from light and fruity, to the more intense “black fruity” oil. Among the other teaching tools is an olive oil guide, twenty flavour guidelines to help associate various oils with different dishes, as well as a tasting framework.
Alternatively, the teachers can call on a specialized olive oil individual who will come to their hotel and catering establishment and animate a two hour tasting session for a group of students.
“They will discover the rich cultural and organoleptic properties of a product adapted to all types of cooking,” say the organisers.
Ultimately, all catering schools can enter their students for the national competition and accompanying goal, the “gastronomic trophy.” For the award, students – by group or individually – are required to create a one-off menu based on extra virgin olive oil that uses its nuances and diverse flavours.
In March this year, forty-five finalists gathered together in Paris to compete for the country’s first ever gastronomic trophy for “olive oil at catering school.” A jury that included France chefs David Bève, William Frachot, Rachel Gesbert, Jérémy Morin and Mathieu Viannay awarded prizes to classes at the Lycée Fontiville de Veigné and the CFA Charles Privat d’Arles catering schools. While students Charlotte Le Hegarat at the Lycée Hôtelier in Marseille and Mathilde Villier at the Lycée de Gascogne in Talence won prizes for the individual competitions.
Menus from the winners included quail with a pumpkin purée and duxelle of wild mushrooms ‘à l’huile d’olives Arbéquine’, and cod fillet with a vegetable tartare accompanied by a bread baguette with thyme and olive oil. Desserts created saw a rhum baba with a pineapple-pepper froth ‘à l’huile d’olive Dauno’ plus a macaroon, ice-cream and chocolate sauce all perfumed with extra virgin olive oil.