Knowledge, even in the food and wine field, makes us free to choose, to select what is best for us and our health and allows us to be actors and not spectators of our choices.
Furthermore, knowledge also allows you to improve your cultural growth and offers opportunities in the world of work.
When Mar Luna Villacañas founded the European School for Oil Professionals it was really the dawn of a reality that did not yet have deep-rooted foundations such as, for example, the wine sector. Pioneer of a project that, over time, has grown and made the “Escuela Europea de Cata de Aceite” one of the first in the world. The school is based in Spain, a country with one of the oldest olive histories in the world and, today, a leader in production and export.
Today, with the advent of digitalization, the school offers online courses also available for enthusiasts.
As founder and director of the European Tasting School, can you tell us how your passion for extra virgin olive oil was born, which later turned into work?
Twelve years ago I was the director of a communication agency specialized in Gastronomy and Wine. We developed a didactic program around oenology and I thought it could be implemented in other products. It all started through Oleo Tourism and, later, growing towards teaching and advice.
When was the idea of creating a school to train professionals in extra virgin olive oil born?
As I entered the sector, I realized the lack of communication that existed between the more technical world of laboratories or tasting panels with respect to the consumer and above all, the producer.
How is the school organized, what courses does it offer and what possibilities does it offer once the degree has been awarded?
The fundamental basis of the School is to generate 360º professionals. For this, the training starts from a deep knowledge of Sensory Analysis through different levels. I believe that, in addition, the Sommelier Level is the key point to test the skills learned in the 3 Levels of the Tasting Courses and complement it with the gastronomic part. Let’s not forget that EVOO is not drunk. It is eaten as food.
The Oil Mill Master Level is based on understanding the processes carried out in the oil mill and thereby understanding where the attributes and defects of the olive juices come from.
We also offer an EVOO Sales Expert Course where we can guide professionals who want to dedicate themselves to this part of the business, or focus those who are already in it.
The school also offers online English courses that are very useful, especially for those living abroad. What kind of courses are they?
They are the Sensory Analysis Courses, although I always want to emphasize that my Courses also carry a very important part of the Product Culture. If you only train the senses but don’t have a cultural foundation for the product, you are missing out on a wonderful opportunity.
For the average consumer, the world of extra virgin olive oil is still little known, even in producing countries. Not everyone can take specialized courses, but everyone would like to buy a quality oil. Overall, what advice would you give consumers?
That they are curious to learn at least a few basic concepts because there are too many false myths around EVOO. With these concepts, they will begin to see this product with another perspective that will help them begin to demand a true quality, not just “etching”.
How important is it, in your experience, to bring younger generations closer to the world of extra virgin olive oil, also through oleo tourism?
As a pioneer in this matter and from the experience of these years, it has been very interesting to bring this product to the current generations that have lost contact with the agricultural environment. When they understand the effort involved in having an olive grove, the harvesting, the production and that they are not just packaging in a supermarket, they add value to the product and generate future high-quality consumers.