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

Food & Cooking

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

Jul. 10, 2013
By 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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