I started off my EVOO journey in Bulgaria with the clear idea to work and cooperate with food enthusiasts and professionals towards growing together the food and EVOO culture in my home country and beyond. Food is so essential in our lives. And at a point in time I’ve realized that we modern city people have a limited average knowledge unless curious and having deeper interests in knowing more about our plates. A healthy, genuine, delicious and balanced food matters a lot to be our medicine day after day. And to give us support throughout the seasons and to be in harmony with the natural body flow. I’ve always been connected to food in my conscious life ~ working in the industry, travelling a lot and enriching my flavour palette across continents and countries, being curious to discover local heritage, recipes and traditions. Thinking more local and seasonal, being enthusiastic and conscious about the importance of supporting the preservation of biodiversity and thinking and acting sustainability.
And now, having accumulated much experiences and knowledge, and having observed my habits and body rhythm during the years, I acknowledge I have a lot to share with a broader circle, not just my close one. To support the city and active people in making more informed choices about their food and the fats they eat. Also, to inspire more food enthusiasts and gourmet seekers about the vast possibilities and genuine mastery of EVOO in the kitchen. To open a new world of flavours and experiences for more curios and inquisitive food soulmates. And take a step further, making a deeper dive together, similar to the one people usually do in the world of wine, coffee, whisky, tea, etc..I also started my flavour journey in coffee and chocolate 25 years ago, followed by wine, and EVOO ~ my love & dedication.
There are 1275 studied olive cultivars in the world, a rich biodiversity across the growing/producing countries and regions, a vast palette of aromas and tastes. A distinctive richness and vigour of the olive oil common characteristics such as Fruitiness, Bitterness and Pungency. Indeed, one could not possibly imagine all that diversity and breadth until diving into a tasting and food pairing experience. I’ve noticed how the faces change with astonishment, after tasting in sequence 6 distinctive and high quality mono-cultivar artisan EVOOs ~ this happens always and once you open up the olive oil path. I’ve experienced it with the participants at the masterclasses at DiVinoTaste in 2018/19 editions, at many thematic dinners or at Menu and Food Connection cooking schools. Only after, one could realize that the world of EVOO is very similar in abundance to the one of other “liquid gems with a character”. And when adding it to the food it gives it that special final touch, a sparkling flare or a harmony that the palate appreciates and praises highly.
I love sharing knowledge, it is like planting seeds that grow and bloom after. When adding passion to this enriching process of knowledge exchange a little miracle happens. For both sides. Therefore, I felt an enormous gratitude and a satisfaction to be invited and organize together with the Academy for Culinary Arts, HRC in Sofia masterclasses dedicated to EVOO and food pairing, for the future chefs. To partner with their talented instructors and have a theoretical and a practical part with a tasting and a cooking session. To discuss and exchange thoughts with the students and chefs-to be from more than 10 countries ~ from Brazil to Bali! It was amazing to meet students from traditional olive oil producing countries ~ Turkey, Croatia, Slovenia and Greece. And others from the “new world” such as India where olive trees have been planted in the past 10 years or Australia where the olive tree has been brought a few centuries back. I shared about the professional paths of 3 olive oil chefs from Greece, Italy and Bulgaria, passionate about high quality EVOOs and using the “liquid gold” as a signature ingredient in their artisan cuisines. Chef Vasilis Leonidou from Crete and chef Andrea Perini from Tuscany, winners and worldwide EVOO chefs in the prestigious Flos Olei Guide of the past few years. And chef Sevda Dimitrova whose love and resonance with Nature and its rhythm is so aspiring that artisan EVOO is a natural partner in her kitchen and seasonal dishes. There are many more chefs globally focusing on the art of pairing EVOOs with their signature dishes and thus creating their own unique and distinctive style. Recognizable and praised immaculately by their guests and in the food community.
With 3rd semester we made a bridge with Vol. 1 masterclass that happened in November 2019. Our new masterclass “EVOO ~ master on the plate” focused on the quality parameters and how to distinguish some common defects in olive oil, a topic very helpful for a professional chef and how to choose EVOO. We dedicated much attention to the art of EVOO & food pairing. Depending on the intensity of each EVOO, its Fruitiness and Pungency, as well as flavour characteristics the approach to pairing could vary ~ bringing completeness and harmony to a dish, or a contrast and a vigour for it to shine and stand out as a star on the stage. Therefore, our tasting session focused on delicate to intense EVOOs by the distinguished artisan producer from Jaen, Nobleza del Sur, also on the same olive variety harvested early (e.g. October) or later in time (e.g. November-December) to tell the difference. We also had a good discussion about the benefits of EVOO in the kitchen, its multiple application across cooking/heat techniques, the vitality and expression it gives to the food, bringing a noble and a natural character to the dishes. Nature on the plate ~ clean, pure and genuine!
And finally, chef – instructor Zhechev made a demonstration of 3 signature dishes which he created especially for the class, paired with 3 distinctive EVOOs ~ a delicate Arbequina, an early harvest Picual from centenary trees and another Picual harvested a month later. What happiness to taste those multidimensional plates! The students had also a chance to prepare some amuse bouche on their own pairing them with the dedicated EVOO for each bite. And the day turned both fun and a teamwork with a knowledge building. Couldn’t be a better combination!