Year 12 | 24 February 2020 | TO ENTER | TO REGISTER

Italy and US bet on super premium olive oil

In Verona the fouth edition of Beyond Extra Virgin, from 20 to 22 September. More dialogue between experience and creativity of the chefs and the severity of food science researchers and sensory

In the background started to emerge interesting business prospects for olive oils of excellence. To support these oils excellence is Professor Claudio Peri, President of the 3 E. With him, Greg Drescher, director of strategic initiatives of the Culinary Institute of America, which for the occasion presents us with issues, objectives and questions to be discussed at the third day of the conference specifically devoted to the use of super-premium gourmet olive oil.

Probably for the first time, a conference about olive oil excellence is mainly focused on the culinary uses. It is certainly the first time that this subject is going to be treated with a systematic approach in which the experience and creativity of great chefs confront with the knowledge of food and sensory scientists. In the background new cultural and business horizons appear for super-premium olive oil.
Greg Drescher, the Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives of the Culinary Institute of America and the coordinator of the culinary sessions at BEV IV explains in this note his vision and the conference’s approach)

Greg Drescher

Although we will want the third day of the Conference to also consider how to highlight consumer’s appreciation of super premium olive oil when they cook at home, our first goal should be to explore and discuss how to enhance the acceptance of super-premium olive oil by chefs and on the part of diners in restaurant settings.

Why? Because in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere, chefs and influential restaurants have become the trend setters that have driven new trends, and new food cultures, through society. Chefs are in a position to “own” new flavors and standards of culinary excellence in a way that the retail sector never will. They are in a position to carry a new narrative directly to influential customers, and to the media. Also, through their creativity and insight, we will learn more as a community about how best to advance the understanding and appreciation of super-premium olive oil. Many, if not most, of these chef-driven insights will transfer, perhaps with some adaptation, to ideas for retailers and home cooks.
Part of our expectation is to drive higher sales of super-premium olive oil first through the fine dining sector, and then through the high-quality volume foodservice sector (e.g., hotels). But more than this, we look to this first concentration on restaurants to create a gold standard of olive oil excellence and flavor discovery, and a new culture of olive oil, that can be a reference point and inspiration for consumers, the media, retailers and others. A bottle of olive oil sitting on the shelf of a gourmet specialty retailer, however excellent when bottled, can never be that reference point—not only because we don’t know how it was handled and stored in transit, but also because it cannot speak to customers. It cannot animate how super-premium olive oil is able to transform other foods and flavors in a way that a restaurant meal can.

Further, the consumer mind-set at the moment is “how do I find a bottle of good olive oil.” Of course we want to move their attention from “good” to “excellent” but we also need to transform consumer thinking to a concept that seeks out a variety of excellent olive oils for various uses and pairing opportunities. Most consumers don’t just look for one good or excellent type of wine, but rather seek several types of wine according to their meal plans. The retail environment cannot begin to advance this agenda of flavor diversity around olive oil in a way that chefs and the foodservice sector can. And flavor diversity is central to our mission to both preserve biodiversity in the olive oil world, but also to create additional complexity, intrigue and excitement that has worked so well for the premium and super-premium worlds of wine, cheese, coffee and more.
Hence this suggests the urgent need for our focus on day 22 September at BEV IV on chefs, culinary applications and strategies around super-premium olive oil, and such brilliant tools as the OliveToLive systems.
What then is the challenge for chefs and restaurateurs? Of course we need to help them understand the difference between excellent olive oil and merely good olive oil, between super-premium olive oil and merely extra virgin olive oil. But the engine behind our success will be to convince chefs that we can turn olive oil from a cost center to a profit center, and make the super-premium olive oil experience a “must have” element of any restaurant that aspires to excellence and critical acclaim.

Questions to the conference’s speakers and participants
Here are some of the questions and issues we need to discuss and explore during the culinary day of BEV IV, with our guest presenters and as a group:

- about presentation to diners:
What is the best way to introduce a variety of super premium olive oils to chefs and their dining customers?
In the case of a flight of three super-premium olive oils (e.g., in the OliveToLive system), what are the best ways to match up those oils with menu items—other food flavors?
Are there iconic ingredients, dishes and flavors that best highlight super-premium olive oils?
Should dinners be encouraged to taste super-premium olives oils by themselves at the table before they pair them with their foods? If so, how is this best done?
How should restaurant tasting menus be constructed so as to showcase a range of super-premium olive oils, and also give the dinner a memorable experience?

- about super-premium olive oil culinary use:
How should we work to systematically discover which ingredients and prepared foods best showcase which super-premium olive oils?
Do super-premium olive oil and food pairings have the most impact when the foods are very simple, somewhat simple, or only moderate complex? Do we lose the fine points of super-premium olive oil aromatics when paired with overly strong, assertive or complex flavors or dishes? Can we think of a way around this challenge?
How does super-premium olive oil pair up with such specific foods as grilled meats and fish; raw and cooked greens and other vegetables soups and stews; breads, grains and legumes; cheeses and other dairy foods; chocolate, citrus, ice creams and sorbets, and other sweets? Which flavors in super premium olive oils best highlight which food flavors?
In the case of dishes that are cooked in very good, but not super-premium olive oils, is it a problem to these drizzle a different super-premium oil on the dish at the end? Might these flavors conflict? If so, what should our strategy be?
When is heat, cold and room temperature in cooking and presentation a “friend” or “foe” to the aromatics of super-premium olive oil?

- about pairings:
Is there value in pairing similar flavor elements in super premium olive oil to those same elements in foods? Artichoke flavors with artichokes and other spring vegetables? The tomato leaf flavor with fresh sliced tomatoes?
How does wine impact the super-premium olive oil experience at the dinner table? Can certain varietals enhance the experience? Can certain wines detract from any or all experiences of super-premium olive oil? Other beverages?
Is there some natural affinities between pairing Greek oils with Greek dishes, Spanish oils with Spanish dishes, Italian oils with Italian dishes, and California oils with California dishes? If not how do we leverage the country or region of origin to help make the case for flavor diversity in olive oil?
What about super-premium olive oils with Asian flavors? Latin flavors? Other world cuisines?
How is the world of food and wine pairing similar and different from super-premium olive oil and food pairing?

- about future developments:
Could we imagine creating a “top 20 or 40 list” of the “greatest super premium olive oil and food pairings of all time” with an idea to stimulate chefs and subsequently consumers to help add to this list?
How can we get sensory scientists and chefs to collaborate in order to create a shared language around super-premium olive oil and food pairing/discovery? Could we devise a sensory evaluation system whereby professional tasters, chefs and/or consumers could highlight “great matches” between super-premium olive oil and other foods that “rise about a certain score” to indicate high impact—and a high degree of liking or preference?
What language should we use to describe the “whole is greater than the sum of its part” impact when we combine a great olive oil with the perfect food flavors?
How do encourage a search for great olive oil–food matches that leaves plenty of room for a sense of discovery and flexibility and doesn’t lead to a sorting of great versus not-so-great matches that undermines the preferences and spirit of flavor discovery on the part of individual chefs, consumer and the media?
Which of these ideas and flavor strategies will translate into consumer messages for marketing materials, the Web, and more?

Culinary talent

Culinary talent at BEV IV include:
• Paul Bartolotta, executive chef/partner, Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare, winner of two James Beard Awards (Las Vegas, NV)
• Bill Briwa, chef instructor, The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone (Napa Valley, CA)
• Maria Jose San Ramon, chef/owner, La Taberna del Gourmet, named Spain's best tapas bar in 2009 (Alicante, Spain)
• Nancy Harmon Jenkins, food writer, Maine
• Diane Kochilas, food writer, Athens
• Harold McGee, science and food writer, San Francisco
• Christoforos Peskias, chef, Athens
• Roberto Zanieri, chef Villa Campesti, first setting up and experiment of the OliveToLive system

by Greg Drescher
06 september 2010, Food & Fun > Gastronomy