“We will spread out through the world the knowledge of the benefits of cooking with EVOO”, said José Antonio Amérigo, chairman and founder of The Extra Virgin Olive Oil International Cooking Academy (ICA) a culinary institution officially presented in Benalmadena (Málaga, Spain) at the end of November.

Born to promote worldwide the Mediterranean diet and the biological benefits of EVOO, The Academy takes on two tasks: to teach cooking with extra virgin olive oil and provide a scientific basis for its characteristics and applications in cooking.

I would like EVOO to be used as the official fat for cooking in homes and restaurants.- José Antonio Amérigo

The first seminars and workshops, conducted in English and Spanish, will begin January 16 at the Finca de los Caballeros, in Benalmádena, on the world-famous Costa del Sol.

“We are going to teach cooking to the cooks,” Amérigo explained to Olive Oil Times. He conceived the project, he said, because “cooks do not cook with extra virgin olive oil” and because the use of the product too often goes no further than salad dressing. “I would like EVOO to be used as the official fat for cooking in homes and restaurants,” he said.

ICA courses are aimed at kitchen professionals: restaurants, food companies, other cooking schools, nutritionists and health authorities, but particularly, to chefs, whose popularity makes them “great advocates” and gives them the power to promote a healthier diet.

Amérigo, who is also president of Oleocanthal International Society, is convinced that, after the fight against tobacco, salt and sugary drinks, the next health crusade will be “against trans fats, butter and margarine — and there we might have a golden opportunity. The work of the Academy is headed in that direction.”

In addition to health professionals, ICA has two olive oil-passionate chef-instructors: Daniel García Peinado, the teacher for the first courses, is a creator of new dishes and EVOO ambassador for culinary techniques; and Firo Vázquez, owner and chef of “El Olivar” restaurant, the producer of Olivar de of Moratalla olive oil, and a widely-recognized as promotor of extra virgin olive oil.

Scientific basis for cooking with AOVE

The Academy also aims to expand scientific knowledge on the uses of extra virgin olive oil in the kitchen. For example, by studying how phenols in EVOO are transmitted to cooked food, and discarding old prejudices, such as the belief that other fats are preferable for certain culinary techniques like frying.

Amérigo doesn’t think extra virgin olive oil “is getting due recognition for its phenolic components, which are what makes the difference. It has the best qualities of smoke point, antioxidants…it is better than any other vegetable oil and, of course, butter and margarine. All that is based on scientific evidence”.

ICA’s advisory board includes researchers and health experts from the United States, France, Australia and Spain. “We have done a big documentation work, and we have created a small lab linked to the Granada University Foundation,” explained the president of the Academy to Olive Oil Times.

An International mission

The Academy will not only perform activities at the Benalmadena headquarters; the goal is to bring training to places with a positive attitude towards health innovation, such as Australia, Japan, Russia or the European Union.

But, above all, ICA wants to focus on the United States, where, according to Amérigo, they are increasingly aware that “they have to change their diet and we can do a very good job because they believe in innovation.”

The Academy already has collaboration agreements with Drexel University in Philadelphia and The Culinary Academy of Melbourne (Australia), and has begun affiliation processes with cooking schools in several countries.

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