The National Organization of Olive Oil Tasters (ONAOO), home of Italy’s premier olive oil tasting school, will be hosting an immersive, five-day olive oil tasting course in New York City this March. Historically only offered at ONAOO’s headquarters in Imperia, Italy, the program is the first of its kind in the United States and will be held at the acclaimed restaurant Del Posto.
The comprehensive seminar was designed to expand America’s network of certified olive oil tasters and promises in-depth education and training in olive oil production processes, sensory development, and industry regulations as well as food and culinary applications. On the final two days of the course, participants will also have the opportunity to take a sensory certification examination to attain sensory analysis certification from ONAOO, which proves the olfactory senses are capable of sensing the subtle differences in aroma and taste of various olive oils.
The tuition for the course is $1,850, or $1,550 without the ONAOO certification.
Nicholas Coleman, chief oleologist at Eataly in New York, and Kathryn Tomajan, founder of Eat Retreat, are co-organizers of the course. They met while completing the tasting course themselves in Italy and have been working together since that time to bring this specialized training to the United States. Coleman and Tomajan are both certified olive oil tasters. Coleman’s experience also includes hand-harvesting olives in Tuscany, overseeing the pressing of olive oils, teaching oil courses, and training chefs and sommeliers within Mario Batali’s restaurant empire. He will be serving as a judge at the New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC) in April.
With a growing interest in higher-quality olive oils in America, more individuals are seeking to differentiate olive oils, properly taste them, and learn to incorporate different varieties into daily life. Furthermore, people who work in the food industry, professional chefs, restaurateurs, and others want to know how to identify high-quality olive oils and understand their culinary applications.
“Understanding how to taste for positive attributes and sensory defects is an essential ability for anyone that works with olive oil,” Coleman said. “This includes producers, importers, retailers, sommeliers and culinary professionals.”
The course organizers have limited enrollment to 20 participants to ensure an intimate and interactive experience for all involved. Attendees will be led through five days of taste training and sensory development by a colorful line-up of presenters.
Mauro Amelio, chemist director of scientific activities at ONAOO, will focus on sensory evaluation techniques and scoring, physical and chemical properties of olive oils, and administration of the 16-part certification exam. Marcello Scoccia, vice president and panel leader of ONAOO, will lead sessions on practical sensory evaluation and description of Mediterranean and global olive oils.
For expertise on olive oil production considerations from tree to table, course organizers have called upon Paul Vossen, a panel leader at this year’s NYIOOC and a farm advisor at the University of California Cooperative Extension, to teach participants how growing and processing conditions impact the final product. Dr. Mary Flynn of Brown University will offer perspectives on olive oil and health through the lens of current scientific research on extra virgin olive oil compared with other fats. Tomajan rounds out the roster providing insights on the basics of sensory analysis as well as olive oil classification, marketing and labeling guidelines.
Culinary applications are also integral to the five-day program. Coleman and Chef Alicia Walter of La Scuola di Eataly, will present on food and wine pairings. An impressive set of Batali’s chefs including Mark Ladner, executive chef of Del Posto, Brooks Headley, executive pastry chef of Del Posto, Dave Pasternack, executive chef of Esca, and Gaetano Arnone, butcher and line cook at Babbo, are scheduled to perform culinary demonstrations to demystify olive oil and share techniques used in some of New York’s top restaurants.
Coleman and Tomajan hope to expand their offering of the course to other American cities in the future.
Further information on the course is available at the organizer’s website.