Food & Cooking

3 Spanish Chefs Who Are Ambassadors of Olive Oil

Acclaimed Andalusian chefs are not just winning prizes by using extra virgin olive oils in their dishes. They're showing other chefs and locals the power of the product, and they say it's just the beginning.

Daniel García Peinado
Feb. 16, 2017
By Alexis Kerner
Daniel García Peinado

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An increas­ing number of chefs in Spain are becom­ing ambas­sadors for extra virgin olive oil in their own coun­try. They are not just win­ning prizes and recog­ni­tion; they are demon­strat­ing to their own fellow Spaniards the value of their cul­tural and gas­tro­nom­i­cal her­itage. Olive Oil Times caught up with three award-win­ning Andalusian chefs.

We have some of the best oils in the world but the prob­lem is in trans­mit­ting the mes­sage of good prac­tices to chefs and con­sumers.- José Luis Navas

At only 22 years old, Jesús Moral is the youngest chef to win the pres­ti­gious award Premio Cocinero Revelación 2017 at the Madrid Fusion Congress last month.

The young chef grew up in his family´s restau­rant, Taberna Miguel, located in Bailen, Jaén, in the heart of olive oil coun­try. After fin­ish­ing his stud­ies and work­ing along side of Michelin- starred chefs, he returned home. His par­ents rec­og­nized both his pas­sion and his abil­i­ties by giving him his own space in the family restau­rant where today he cre­ates his mas­ter­ful dishes.

When we asked about his first memory of olive oil he was quiet for a moment. Perhaps it was an obvi­ous ques­tion for him. After a long pause, he said, “I was born with olive oil, it is our way of life.”

Moral admit­ted he is right now the chef of the hour. Everyone wants to talk with him and reser­va­tions in the restau­rant have exploded, he said.

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He under­stands that this new fame puts him in a very good posi­tion to show locals and inter­na­tional audi­ences how the dishes from his region can be and how these plates can be enriched with high-qual­ity olive oil.

Foreigners, he explained, from North America and Asia are easier to con­vince about the ben­e­fits of qual­ity olive oil. It is more dif­fi­cult to per­suade locals to spend a few more euros on a bottle of olive oil that will improve their cui­sine.

Jesús Moral

Moral is not the only one to express that Spaniards are a bit more unwill­ing to use higher qual­ity olive oils. Chef Daniel García Peinado from Málaga also has expe­ri­enced more reluc­tance from locals to use better olive oil. He noted that Andalusians grow up around olive oil and often think they know every­thing. Foreigners are more open to learn­ing.

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Five years ago, García Peinado first came in con­tact with olive oil thanks to the Spanish doctor, José Antonio Amérigo, who was look­ing for chefs to help him create a new menu of dishes rich in oleo­can­thal for his patients. It was in this moment that the chef real­ized that this prod­uct was not just for cook­ing but an impor­tant role in health.

From this point on he began study­ing the best ways to elab­o­rate plates with olive oil while main­tain­ing its sen­so­r­ial and healthy qual­i­ties. He said he had been able to win prizes by sur­pris­ing inter­na­tional judges by his use of olive oil. He noted that there are not many chefs that know how to use the prod­uct and it gives him an edge.

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García Peinado made a very impor­tant point during his inter­view with us. He explained that it is the chef that trans­lates the ben­e­fits and the com­plex­ity of the prod­uct. Scientists dis­cover new find­ings, tasters are able to deci­pher the nuances and char­ac­ter­ize the oil and, doc­tors can tell you it is good for your heart, but it is the chef that brings these mes­sages home to the con­sumer. Without the chef there is no link, the mes­sage is lost.

Daniel García Peinado

This March, he will be open­ing his own restau­rant in Málaga, Oleoteca. The restau­rant will not just serve deli­cious and healthy dishes but it will be a place where people can come and learn about olive oil and the most sur­pris­ing ways to use it.

José Luis Navas aban­doned his own kitchen to reach out to chefs and pro­vide them with instruc­tion on how to use olive oil. He rec­og­nizes that there is a large mis­in­for­ma­tion on how to imple­ment olive oil in cui­sine. “We have some of the best oils in the world but the prob­lem is in trans­mit­ting the mes­sage of good prac­tices to chefs and con­sumers.”

Navas not only instructs chefs, he is also the direc­tor of the National Gastronomic Congress for Extra Virgin Olive Oil held annu­ally in the province of Jaén. Prestigious chefs, som­me­liers, and gas­tro­nomic experts come together during the event to show inno­v­a­tive ways in which Jaén’s extra virgin olive oils can be used in gas­tron­omy.

When asked about the future of olive oil, Navas had a lot to say.

He believes that there is so much more to explore in the world of olive oil espe­cially when it comes to blends. He explained that we have been caught up for some time in mono­va­ri­etals and it is time to take another step. “Imagine a blend of extra virgin olive oil that can per­fectly bring out the fla­vors of a plate. This is just one of the things we are work­ing on now.”