For the seventh time since its inception in 2016, ICC—together with the Olive Oil Times Education Lab—welcomed culinary professionals from around the world for another sold out round of our two-level Olive Oil Sommelier Certification courses. They learned to identify the positive attributes & defects in olive oil and tasted more than 100 samples of olive oil from various regions in the world’s most comprehensive curriculum in olive oil quality assessment!
But, before Olive Oil Sommelier hopefuls joined instructors from around the world, Perola Polillo—alumna of the course and Chef & Olive Oil Sommelier—and Curtis Cord—Executive Director of the Olive Oil Sommelier Certification program, publisher of the Olive Oil Times and president of the New York International Olive Oil Competition—taught ICC students and guests what chefs really need to know about olive oil.
See what they taught us below to help understand the complexities of olive oil and how to harness the flavor, versatility, and health benefits of one of the world’s greatest cooking oils!
What's with all these names?
There are so many names used to describe different types of olive oil—extra virgin, virgin, refined, pumace, cold pressed and dozens more—but don’t be fooled by these fancy terms! While extra virgin is notoriously the highest quality, consumers often think that others are comparable, which just isn’t true. Pumace is made from leftover flesh and pulp, making it much lower in quality, and potentially harmless from the mysterious ingredients that could be included. Cold pressed is actually a marketing term with little meaning and no definition in the industry. Be wary of getting caught up in all the different terms out there!
What Color Should My Olive Oil Be?
This may come as a surprise, but the color of olive oil is not an indicator of quality! Just like wine, the juice comes from the fruit and the terroir, so the color can vary from anything to a bright green, to a yellow. Olive oil is all about taste and aroma, after all!
Can I put my olive oil next to my stove?
No—definitely not! Olive oil should be kept away from light and heat, which is why it’s often sold in dark green bottles that help to absorb the light. It’s best to store your olive oil in a cool, dark cupboard.
Should I be spending $100 per bottle?
A quality olive oil takes a lot to produce, which is why a bottle can often be pricey. But, you don’t really have to spend more than $100 to have an amazing bottle of oil on your shelf. Some of the best olive oils are often much less!
Does olive oil age like wine?
Olive oil is similar to wine in a lot of ways, but it does not age gracefully. It is possible to keep olive oil in a cool, dark place for up to 2 years. However, after you open a bottle, it degrades and loses its quality—a good rule of thumb is to use the oil within the first 2 months of opening.
Should I just have one bottle?
Different olive oils pair with different foods, just like wine! Some have peppery notes that pair well with heartier dishes, while others are sweeter that go well with desserts. There are thousands of varieties, so it can be tricky to find the best one to pair with your dish, but the Olive Oil Times developed an app to help take out the guess work! Check it out here.
The next time you reach for a new bottle of olive oil at the store, be sure to consider these tips to selecting the perfect oil!
Olive Oil Times Education Lab and International Culinary Center (ICC) present the Olive Oil Sommelier Certification Program. Combining the world’s foremost olive oil experts and educators, this comprehensive series of courses spans production, quality management and advanced sensory assessment for the aspiring olive oil sommelier. Click to learn more about Course 1 and Course 2!