Olive oil and the catering industry

Luigi Caricato

The oil-restaurant combination would appear to be a sure bet, but it is not always so. Although olive oil appeals enormously to the consumer, professional caterers, for some seemingly unknown reason, greatly underestimate its importance, and what is most disappointing, they pay no attention to its countless facets and personalities.

Not everyone in the business seems to understand that extra virgin olive oils are not all the same, and that choosing one oil or another has a significant impact on the dish. We often witness examples of shameful intellectual laziness: the cooks working in the restaurant kitchens tend to choose generic, tasteless oils so that no effort is required to pair them properly with the other ingredients used. It is undeniable that often, it is quite difficult to use extra virgin oils in a correct and appropriate manner.

It is not always easy to use and choose the best extra virgin oil for a dish. Often, in a petty attempt to save some money, cooks opt for a cheap product, usually a Spanish oil purchased at a budget price that has a questionable sensory profile. All oils in fact can perform emulsifying, flavour-conveying functions, as well as improving food texture, reducing its saltiness, and acting as a non-stick, lubricating agent.

This is a great mistake, because bad oil will inevitably, and seriously, compromise any dish. To such an extent that I, a regular restaurant diner, to avoid any unpleasant surprise, always carry with me a “dish-saving” portion of oil. Shouldn’t we solicit a change in mentality? Wouldn’t it be better if things were the other way round, and it was up to the restaurateur to worry about the quality of the oil? I appeal to all restaurateurs, and invite them to be more cautious when purchasing oil, and even more important, to attend specific courses on this topic.

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