`In France, A 'High School of Olive Oil Tasting' - Olive Oil Times

In France, A 'High School of Olive Oil Tasting'

Jul. 10, 2013
Alice Alech

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Fabienne Roux has been involved with olive oil for over 22 years as a spe­cial­ist in its tastes and fla­vors. Internationally rec­og­nized for her exper­tise, she is often invited to par­tic­i­pate in olive oil com­pe­ti­tions, such as the New York International Olive Oil Competition held in April this year where she served on its elite panel of judges.

Roux feels strongly that much more can be done in France to improve aware­ness of olive oil, espe­cially in food and gas­tron­omy. She recently cre­ated the French High School of Olive Oil Tasting where she shares her pas­sion, enthu­si­asm and knowl­edge with pro­fes­sion­als and gas­tron­omy lovers.

This élaïo­logue, or olive oil spe­cial­ist, now trains pro­fes­sional chefs on the culi­nary aspects of olive oil, but her approach does not strictly fol­low the con­ven­tional pat­tern.

I don’t want to do it like a robot, like a machine,” Roux told Olive Oil Times. I am look­ing for emo­tions. These chefs often buy good olive oilfrom pro­duc­ers but they need to learn about aro­mat­ics, to be more emo­tional and cre­ative when using olive oil.”


Without dis­cussing the ori­gins of the oils, Roux first exposes her trainees to sev­eral dif­fer­ent vari­eties, encour­ag­ing them to iden­tify aro­mas for them­selves. And for that she has her own tech­nique of using spe­cial sweets.

I use con­cen­trated oils because chefs are con­stantly tast­ing, using their mouths, I want them to first use their noses. If a chef thinks the oil is a basic one, I remove it straight away. Most impor­tant, he must ask him­self what he can do with this par­tic­u­lar oil in the kitchen. I don’t influ­ence them.”

What’s great is their enthu­si­asm for this kind of approach; they become so keen, so excited; we often end up in the kitchen to pre­pare a dish. Only at the end do they dis­cover the ori­gin of the oils they chose; these might be from Provence, from California, Tuscany or else­where. It might even be an organic olive oil, but what’s impor­tant is the dish they’re going to use it for,” she explained.

But edu­ca­tion doesn’t stop with chefs, espe­cially with the tourist sea­son in full swing in the South of France. With Roux at the helm, Elaïotours orga­nizes olive oil tours with 25 or so par­tic­i­pants which wind through the best olive oil mills in the Provence-Alps-Riviera region.

Education and tourism are devel­op­ing here in the South with many Americans, Australians and oth­ers com­ing by cruise ships. They’re very inter­ested in olive oil cul­ture in France. I want to give them the basic keys, not to influ­ence them — to allow them to dis­cover what ter­roir is all about,” she said.

I feel that this new approach towards olive oil is nec­es­sary in France. Not only are we aim­ing to edu­cate top chefs but also the gen­eral pub­lic because they will be the future cus­tomers, they will be going to the restau­rants.”

This olive oil edu­ca­tor feels olive oil should be given the same sta­tus as wine in France. When you think of the diver­sity of olives, the dif­fer­ent ter­roirs, and the know-how of olive oil pro­duc­ers in France, Roux’s approach make per­fect sense.

Huile d’Olive, c’est la petite soeur du Vin,” Roux explained. Olive oil is the lit­tle sis­ter of wine.

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