The first school in the world for the dissemination of olive oil tasting could only be born in Italy, a nation where the olive tradition is internationally known.
It all began in 1983, the year the school was founded. From that date to today, ONAOO has taught according to the most up-to-date teaching and scientific knowledge. The strength lies in the teaching staff, selected according to high-level professional curriculum, and the members who, throughout the world, have contributed, over the decades, to the growth of a unique project of its kind for cultural exchanges and diversified training offers, both for professionals and for simple enthusiasts.
Pioneers of a project that was truly niche at that time, today ONAOO, is the flagship of Italy’s olive oil sector that aims at training professionals in the sector worldwide.
ONAOO students have the great privilege of tasting oils from all over the globe for a study that is as complete and varied as possible.
What makes ONAOO professional, in the broadest sense of the term, is its position above the parties, inspired by scientific rigor.
Since 1986, Marcello Scoccia has been responsible for blending and sensory analysis at world leading companies in the olive oil sector. Professional Taster, Technical Vice President and Panel Leader C.C.I.A.A. of Imperia – O.N.A.O.O. Scoccia teaches professional technical courses and university masters on sensory analysis. Speaker at international conferences on olive oil and sensory analysis and author of publications, articles and books on oil and tasting.
In this interview Scoccia talks about himself and shares his experience in the olive sector with the readers.
When was your passion for extra virgin olive oil born and what was your training path to make a passion your profession?
It all started by chance, on 9 May 1985, the first day of work in a large EVOO company, in Imperia (Liguria, Northern Italy). The first year with a task other than tasting but, from the following year, my continuous contact with olive oil tasting began. During all these years I have followed the selection of oils, the creation of sensory profiles of the oils of leading companies in the sector. The passion has grown from year to year. Furthermore, all the trips made in the Mediterranean (and beyond) have allowed me to stay in constant contact with operators with different cultures and traditions. This has fueled more and more passion and interest in extra virgin olive oil. Today, after 35 years, I can say that the passion and interest for this product are always alive.
How important is your role as a consultant for olive farms and what evolution has it had over time?
When I started, the job of the recruiter was very different. The focus was mainly on selecting oils that could meet the needs of consumers. The official panel test method, i.e. sensory evaluation to classify oils, did not yet exist. This has changed our work a lot. In addition, various legal analyzes have been included that oils must comply with. Therefore, the work of the master blender is a job that today requires a much broader culture than in the past. The work of the master blender is a profession of great responsibility, there are few figures in the world who carry out this profession. Then we have the tasters who work in the official panels but are different professional figures.
You have been part of ONAOO since its opening. What is the difference between the students of that era and those of today?
In the courses we held a few decades ago in ONAOO, the majority of the students were operators in the sector, producers, packers, operators in the sector in general. Currently, in professional technical courses we increasingly find the presence of professionals from other sectors who want to learn how to taste in order to recognize the quality of the oils. In addition, we record an increasingly important presence of people coming from abroad: the East, Northern Europe and the United States, mainly.
How has ONAOO’s training offer evolved over the years?
In addition to the professional technical course, which allows tasters to subscribe to the national list of tasters, we have developed different types of courses aimed at consumers, restaurateurs and, above all, training in schools, as we believe that the consumers of the future must be trained about this wonderful product.
In the digital age, what does the ONAOO online course offer and who is it for?
ONAOO has started the activity of online courses for many years, about ten. It is clear that at this stage we have increased this activity with a varied offer of courses at different levels.
What opportunities does your school offer for those interested in making EVOO a profession?
We give all the tools to become professional judges in this sector, for example by entering an official test panel. The leap in quality, especially in terms of remuneration, is to become a master blender in a large company.
How to bring the younger generations closer to the world of extra virgin olive oil and what is the contribution of a highly specialized school like ONAOO?
We are developing this training program on various educational institutions with the aim of bringing students closer to this world. I must admit that the answer is more than positive, we try to bring young people closer to this world as a job opportunity and I am not referring only to the tasting of oils but to the entire olive oil chain.