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Gregorio Arranz, chef specialized in pairings with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), as well as professor of Gastronomy at ESAO, presents his opinion and vision on the world of olive oil. The chef also completed the Olive Oil Sommelier Certification from the Olive Oil School of Spain.
What can you tell us about EVOO and gastronomy?
Olive oil is one of the pillars of the trilogy that make up the Mediterranean diet, being this, the diet of reference worldwide, for its health, prevention of diseases, variety of foods and respect for products with the environment, always from the point of view of culture and way of life in the world. In our case, what it brings us in gastronomy, in addition to the points mentioned above, which is currently the vanguard of gastronomy, is also the richness in flavor and possible textures in the sensory field, which it contributes to our kitchens.
What does having a guide to the best international olive oils mean for gastronomy?
When it comes to choosing or selecting an oil for our dishes, it is a limiting factor. Since we are not able to taste a large number of oils that demonstrate their characteristics or move in the world of EVOO, we need advice and support from a group of people who can advise you according to the type of cuisine, dishes in which you want to express your personal signature, the menu and restaurant. Having a guide where the characteristics of the best olive oils are revealed is already a great advance for this step.
What are the greatest advantages that you see in EVOO so that it can be the protagonist in some elaborations?
First and foremost, the richness of flavor and aromas it provides, both raw and as part of hot preparations. The second characteristic is given its large amount of natural antioxidants, resistance to heat, preventing it from burning and leaving flavors that are not suitable in a dish, not counting from the point of view of health and finally, since there is a wide range of olives, each of which provides different nuances, makes it easier for us to differentiate and highlight foods.
Of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Gastronomy course that you teach on the ESAO campus, what do you see that your students like the most?
The truth is that they are all quite interesting, since in each subject taught an important field in EVOO gastronomy is revealed. From the history of our Mediterranean diet, which is a very important pillar in recipes made with olive oil, conservation, toxic that can be produced by improper use, up to processes as complex as frying, through the most recommended oils for each type of preparation.
What are the biggest difficulties that you see for a high quality EVOO so that it can be introduced in the best restaurants?
The truth is, I don't see any difficulty, since a restaurant must work with products of an acceptable quality, which is what will differentiate you from the competition, and in this case, virgin or extra virgin olive oil is. Another big problem attributed to the use of an EVOO is the price of this product, a reason that I do not share, taking into account that the amount of oil used is very little compared to other ingredients and the third reason, the lack of training and knowledge of the benefits that EVOOs bring to gastronomy and to your establishment.
What is your opinion about the little training of chefs in olive oil?
For me, the fault is on the one hand, the educational system that trains future and present professionals in the sector and does not include any or rather, in any subject this matter. On the other hand, the neglect of many professionals to follow training and investigating in new fields such as oil, this ingredient being one of the main ingredients in many of the preparations that are prepared daily.
Do you think the awards help cooks when choosing to buy a brand of oil?
I believe that if you do not have a great training in tasting and evaluation of oils and on the other hand you do not have access to test for yourself and evaluate the product, the fact that a group of qualified people such as a tasting panel will let you know the characteristics and the value of this oil, it is already a good advance work.
How do cooks value the quality of extra virgin olive oils for some time now? How has evolution been?
Currently, thanks to the media and the disclosures of other professionals in the restaurant sector, there is a little more interest in olive oils than 10 years ago, but even so, there is still a long way to go. The evolution is being positive, and we hope that this interest in such a fundamental ingredient in the kitchen will continue.
What would you say to all those producers to encourage them to continue betting on the quality of their EVOO?
In this year 2020, after what happened with the issue of the pandemic, most of the people who did not cook, have had the need to learn to cook, if we add to that, the great importance that social networks and people’s will to investigate, what used to be a “mere” supermarket product, today more people are being interested in this food, not as a culinary ingredient, but also as a health supplement. This is getting people to be much more interested in knowing where it comes from, what it takes, what it brings, and also worries more about satisfying the need for flavor and that the product they acquire is respectful with the environment. All these characteristics are what differentiate a mediocre production from a quality EVOO, which in the end is the difference between your product and the rest.
What is the value that the work you do with EEVOs brings to your elaborations?
For me, the fundamental thing is the flavor, this must be part of my dishes being present in each of my preparations.
On the other hand, knowing that the experience that my clients are living is giving them, not only food satisfaction, but also a series of values that I explain them that are reflected in health. Many of them are surprised because no one had let them know before.
And finally, knowing that behind each bottle of oil that I use, there is a job of one or more people that must be recognized and valued, just as I like my job to be valued. For this reason, I always treat the product with respect so that my guests notice value and repeat.
This guide collects the extra virgin olive oils awarded in the three most important competitions in the olive sector. In the ESAO GUIDE you can find:
- ESAO Stars, a recognition of the quality of the most awarded oils.
- The winners of the international competition Mario Solinas of the International Olive Council.
- The winners of the Food of Spain awards, of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of the Government of Spain and
- The winners at the ESAO Awards.
- Interviews with personalities from the olive sector.