Restaurant, Wine Retailer Team Up to Pair Wines, Olive Oils and Foods

An olive oil sommelier is sharing his passion through a series of events in Olympia, Washington.

Leonard Young at the Olive Oil Sommelier Certification Program in Campbell, California
Jan. 10, 2018
By Alison Sandstrom
Leonard Young at the Olive Oil Sommelier Certification Program in Campbell, California

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Leonard Young is excited about olive oil. 

A great olive oil tastes bet­ter, it smells bet­ter, peo­ple get some­thing out of it. It’s not just this greasy liq­uid that you’re dunk­ing your bread into before din­ner,” he told Olive Oil Times.

One of the things that I’m really work­ing toward is increas­ing peo­ple’s recog­ni­tion and appre­ci­a­tion of olive oil as a won­der­ful prin­ci­ple thing, just the same as you’d look at a great bot­tle of wine or a great plate of food.- Leonard Young, Waterstreet Cafe

Now, the recently cer­ti­fied olive oil som­me­lier is shar­ing his pas­sion with a series of spe­cial events in Olympia, Washington. Starting Saturday, Jan. 13, he’ll host four food, wine and olive oil tast­ings in part­ner­ship with Grand Vin Wine Merchants, a local wine retailer. 

Diners will be able to tastes triplets” of spe­cially-selected food, wine, and olive oil combinations. 

Leonard Young at the Olive Oil Sommelier Certification Program in Campbell, California

Young, who has been the wine direc­tor of three restau­rants in Olympia, includ­ing his cur­rent posi­tion at Waterstreet for fif­teen years, said the prin­ci­ples for pair­ing olive oil and food are more or less the same as those for pair­ing wine and food. 

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Both olive oil som­me­liers and wine som­me­liers ana­lyze aro­mas and fla­vors, the main dif­fer­ence is their use of unique vocab­u­lar­ies. According to Young, the main char­ac­ter­is­tics to con­sider with high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil are fruiti­ness, bit­ter­ness, pun­gency and balance.

With a very bold dish like a grilled steak, you’d want to use a more fruity oil — a more robust oil with more promi­nent fla­vors, maybe some­thing where the bit­ter­ness and pun­gency ele­ments are more promi­nently expressed. Whereas with a del­i­cate dish, you’d be look­ing for sub­tle oil where the fla­vors and aro­mas are less pro­nounced,” he said. 

While Young may sound like an olive oil expert, he’s the first to admit he’s just at the begin­ning” of what he hopes will be a life­long learn­ing process. 

In the spring of 2017, while brows­ing the Internet, he had the idea to intro­duce an olive oil tast­ing menu at Waterstreet Cafe. But after order­ing some award-win­ning olive oils online, he quickly real­ized he needed to learn more about extra vir­gin olive oil to do it properly. 

I real­ized I really didn’t know what I was doing and I needed to increase my knowl­edge,” he says. 

It was that desire to learn more to do a bet­ter job at the restau­rant that drew him to a course Young now calls trans­for­ma­tive.”

During a week-long Olive Oil Sommelier Certification Program orga­nized by the International Culinary Center and the Olive Oil Times Education Lab, Young and his class­mates learned about olive oil his­tory, cul­ti­va­tion and pro­duc­tion, as well and received inten­sive train­ing on rec­og­niz­ing olive oil defects and sen­sory attrib­utes through taste and smell. 

Young was amazed by what he learned. 

It’s like hav­ing some­thing where your eyes get opened and you’re walk­ing into some­thing that’s so much more com­plete and more won­der­ful and big­ger than you could have imag­ined — my con­scious­ness around olive oil has increased so much,” he said. 

Waterstreet Cafe

One of the first things he did upon return­ing to the restau­rant was taste the olive oil Waterstreet was serv­ing with bread. Discovering it was defec­tive, he quickly switched it out for a high-qual­ity oil of his own choos­ing — and he was just get­ting started. 

One of the most fun and reward­ing things right now is to con­tinue to work with our chef on how olive oil is used in all aspects of our cui­sine. Changing the bread olive oil was rel­a­tively quick and easy, but kind of decon­struct­ing our use of olive oil in all of our cook­ing and try­ing to match the right oils to the right uses — all of that has been a lot of fun and that’s an ongo­ing process,” he said. 

The Waterstreet Cafe menu now fea­tures a rotat­ing selec­tion of seven high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oils for tasting. 

Young said what he views as the seri­ous under-appre­ci­a­tion of olive oil is one of the things he’s try­ing to address with the Wine + Food + Olive Oil” series at Grand Vin. 

In the United States, at least, olive oil is gen­er­ally viewed as a condi­ment like mus­tard or ketchup,” Young said. One of the things that I’m really work­ing toward is increas­ing peo­ple’s recog­ni­tion and appre­ci­a­tion of olive oil as a won­der­ful prin­ci­pal thing, just the same as you’d look at a great bot­tle of wine or a great plate of food.”



Waterstreet Cafe
610 Water Street
Olympia, Washington

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