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Susana Romera: "Olive oil is the healthiest fat for human body, but it is not used that much"
Olga Beklemisheva, Olive Oil Sommelier by ESAO, the Olive Oil School of Spain, co-founder of the Russian project Olive Makers, interviews our Technical Director, Susana Romera.
Question - OB & ML, Olive Makers : What influenced your career choices and led you to olive oil education?
- Answer - SR, ESAO: It was my love for olive oil and my concern about human health.
I was raised in Granada, Andalousia, in a family of olive oil producers. Later, as a professional working in the field, I became aware of the need to educate people on the use of healthy fats, as it has an important influence on the safety of the food we eat.
Olive oil is the healthiest fat for human body, but it is not used that much.
Our work is about striving for a wider access to this healthy fat around the world, creating awareness and helping to see the benefits of producing, sharing and using extra virgin olive oil.
Question - OB & ML, Olive Makers: What are the three things that inspire you most of all in your work?
- Answer - SR, ESAO: The joy of giving, promoting health and increasing knowledge – it is a great source of inspiration at work.
I also enjoy the international environment of the School, meeting people coming from all over the world.
In addition, I like the fact that our programs help producers to increase their olive oils quality and enable to sell them better. It is very fulfilling to see the impact that we have on our students and their businesses. The rewards of teaching are great when you see positive changes in people’s lifes.
Question - OB & ML, Olive Makers: Who are your students? Are they mostly professionals? What goals are they seeking to achieve through olive oil education?
- Answer - SR, ESAO: Our students are mostly professionals who want to improve their work and provide excellent quality.
Apart from that, this kind of education gives wide opportunities for professional networking. We have various programs ranging from olive oil tasting to milling, olive grove management and olive oil businesses..
But, in fact, we have a mix of attendees at our courses, including growers, distributors, retailers, academics, chefs.. We have had a group of students from Russia, visiting Spain as tourists. They wanted to learn more about olive oil and local gastronomy. We offered them a sommelier course, which was focused on tasting as well as on food and olive oil pairing basics. It is becoming increasingly trendy to combine travel experience with short-term professional education.
Question - OB & ML, Olive Makers: Has it been possible for you to hear back from your students and learn of their further career developments after they’ve finished the course?
- Answer - SR, ESAO: Yes, we are in contact with most of our students. We love hearing back from them. A lot of people return to take another course or a senior program. Besides students send us their oils to ask: “How am I progressing?”, “What do you think of it now?”. And it is really pleasant to learn that their products and businesses improve over time. For example, one of our former students, the founder of OliOli company, has made great progress in the past years. Today, they are producing excellent organic extra virgin olive oil and their business is sustainable. It is a family enterprise, they are former doctors, and they remain committed to health and quality in what they are doing now.
There are many great stories in fact.
Question - OB & ML, Olive Makers: How does ESAO differ from other Schools? What is the major focus of the programs that you offer?
- Answer - SR, ESAO: Our focus is on giving practical skills. We integrate theoretical knowledge into practical experience. We want our students to learn from the lead producers and top-notch experts in the field.
We want to apply all the knowledge into practical work. We try to make very practical courses. Another thing is that our teachers are real practitioners, they have real working experience in the field and real business achievements.
For example, a course on olive oil export is taught by a businessman who runs a company selling olive oil to over forty countries. This kind of approach makes the education we offer different from other courses. On the other hand, it may be easier to have a university teacher, because they are used to giving lectures, they are used to strict schedules, they start at ten and finish at twelve. But we prefer to work with people who have real practical experience in the business, although this is sometimes challenging.
We were the first to offer the Master Miller training worldwide. When we started contacting people to ask them if they would be interested in teaching a course at our school, many of them replied negatively, saying that they are not used to public speaking and that they do not feel comfortable about it. It was difficult to convince them. But we strongly believe that it is very important to learn these skills from real practitioners.
And thirdly, our education is focused on quality. Our approach is that at every stage of olive oil elaboration process, from fruit collecting to bottling, the process should be run and overseen with the maximum care and responsibility. Our goal is that consumer enjoy the freshest and the cleanest extra virgin olive oil.
About Olive Makers
Olive Makers is a communications project borned in Russia, focused on olive tree culture. It promotes a healthy lifestyle and builds a community of people who appreciate the qualities of olive oil, in Russia and around the globe.
Olive Makers travels to olive oil estates and narrate stories about olive oil production and olive oil history. They support efforts to promote the olive tree culture. Their goal is to bring olive oil’s benefits to everyone and to create an environment that inspires and empowers people.
What Ms. Beklemisheva says about our Technical Director:
Susana Romera, professional taster and adept in sensorial analysis of virgin olive oil is an extraordinary teacher, passionate about her work and truly committed to promoting awareness about olive oil and its benefits.