Dec. 21, 2022

All About Olive Oil with Master Miller David Garci-Aguirre of Corto

All About Olive Oil with Master Miller David Garci-Aguirre of Corto
This is the olive oil episode. This week, I speak with David Garci-Aguirre, the master miller at Corto. This one ingredient probably touches more dishes than any other ingredient except salt. But how much do we know about it? David likes to say that it's the ingredient that farm-to-table forgot. Nobody knows where it came from, who made it, or how it got made. But on this episode, we're going to change that.

Did you know that much of the oil on the market is already rancid when you purchase it? This is one of the reasons that most extra-virgin olive oils have a low smoke point, and aren't recommended for sauteing with. But David says that fresh, high-quality olive oil is one of the most stable cooking oils there is.

Besides rancidity and oil smoke points, you'll learn how Corto grows, harvests, produces, stores and packs its oil. They have an innovative bag-in-a-box system that protects the oil, making sure that the very last drop is as fresh as the first. They don't sell their oils at a retail level, but if you want to purchase it, use the link below to get it directly from their website.

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Over the past 30 years, the world of the personal chef has grown in importance to fulfill dining needs. While the pandemic certainly upended the restaurant experience, it allowed personal chefs to close that dining gap.  Central to all of that is the United States Personal Chef Association.
 
 USPCA provides a strategic backbone for those chefs that includes liability insurance, training, communications, certification, and more. It’s a reassurance to consumers that the chef coming into their home is prepared to offer them an experience with their meal.
 
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Transcript
Chris Spear:

Are you consuming a rancid oil? Most likely? The answer is yes. On today's show, I speak with David Garci-Aguirre, Master Miller at Corto. You're going to want to stick around for this one, because today, it's the olive oil episode. My name is Chris Spear. And this is Chefs Without Restaurants, the show where I speak with culinary entrepreneurs and people working in the food and beverage industry outside of a traditional restaurant setting. So olive oil Hmm. Am I really doing a full episode on this one ingredient today? It's funny. This one ingredient probably touches more dishes than any other ingredient except maybe salt. But often, we don't really give it much thought. Sure, maybe we opt for what we think is a high quality extra virgin olive oil. But how much do you really know about your oil. David likes to say that it's the only ingredient that farm to table forgot. Nobody knows who made it, where it came from, or how it got made. And I claim ignorance as well, which is why I want to have divvied on the show corto they're making what sometimes called New World olive oil, you're going to learn about their growing, harvesting and production techniques and how they differ from other olive oil producers in the world. One of the main things we talked about as oil rancidity I don't think the average consumer or even chef has any idea how much rancid oil is actually out there on the market. It was really eye opening to me. And have you seen the cool bag in a box system that Corto uses? I don't think I've ever purchased olive oil in a bag in a box system before. And what about smoking point. One of the things I've heard for years is that you shouldn't cook with extra virgin olive oil because of its low smoking point. And this is often true because if you have rancid oil, the smoke point is drastically lower. But if you're using a high quality fresh olive oil like Horto it's actually one of the most stable cooking oils there is. So I think is a really interesting episode. And I want to be clear that this episode is not sponsored by Korto. As always, I only have guests and products on the show that I love and find interesting. So that being said, if you want to purchase the Korto oil, you can find an affiliate link in the show notes. What that means is that if you purchase via my link, I'll get a small commission. And this is a great transition into the part about sponsorships. As always, if you go to chefs without restaurants.com forward slash sponsors, you'll find both our affiliate partners and our sponsors. I still have a couple of spots left for Audio Ads sponsors in 2023. So if that's something you or your business are interested in, please get in touch. The best way to reach me is by email at chefs without restaurants@gmail.com. And the show is of course made possible with help from the sponsors. So the olive oil episode will be coming right up after a word from the United States personal chef Association.

USPCA AD:

Over the past 30 years, the world of the personal chef has grown in importance to fulfill those dining needs. While the pandemic certainly upended the restaurant experience, it allowed personal chefs to close that dining gap. Central to all of that is the United States personal chef Association, representing nearly 1000 chefs around the US and Canada. USPCA provides a strategic backbone to those chefs that includes liability insurance, training, communications, certification, and more. It's a reassurance to consumers that the chef coming into their home is prepared to offer them an experience with their meal. USPCA provides training to become a personal chef through our preparatory membership. Looking to showcase your products or services to our chefs and their clients. partnership opportunities are available. Call Angela today at 1-800-995-2138. Extension 705 or email her at aprather@uspca.com for membership and partner info. Hey David. Welcome to the show. Thanks so much for coming on.

David Garci-Aguirre:

Thanks, Chris. I'm really looking forward to it.

Chris Spear:

Me too. I use olive oil probably literally every day. So I think this is gonna be like the olive oil episode. I really love doing these kinds of single topic episodes and I think it's gonna be great for our listeners.

David Garci-Aguirre:

Good Yeah, I definitely think olive oil is one of the most misunderstood ingredients or is so I think we can we can tease out a lot of good info today. Yes, please.

Chris Spear:

Well, I want to start with your background. Did you start in the food industry? Like did you come up through traditional restaurants culinary school, any of that? How did you get into this business?

David Garci-Aguirre:

And I fell into this business completely by accident. I don't have one of those. You know those special romantic stories of someone in Tuscany and harvesting olives i i studied philosophy in college at UC Santa Cruz. At the time I was playing fairly high level soccer trying to break into professional ranks. And I wasn't having much luck here in California so I decided to go to Spain so I put on a backpack and went to Spain. And no I didn't learn olive oil in Spain either. I actually got injured in Spain, which ended up in my next career move which was doing metal art. So I taught myself metal art and had a studio in Davis. And my neighbor at that time was the one that had the olive oil idea. And he he came over one day and asked me if I'd be interested in building a mobile olive oil processing plant. And I said yes. And we ran that it was called Olive to bottle. We ran it for four years. And it was the first one in North America. There have since been for others bill, but that's essentially how I got into olive oil. I just kind of stumbled into

Chris Spear:

it. No transferable skills, no olive oil background, just soccer, metal art and philosophy.

David Garci-Aguirre:

You know? Yeah, I've always been, I've always been mechanically inclined engineer minded. So you know, when I started my, my metal shop, I definitely worked on some some fun prototyping projects and things. So I just, you know, my varied skill set kind of lended itself well to a burgeoning industry in California.

Chris Spear:

So when you started that first project with your friend would like, how did you learn? What did you have to you know, what was the process for figuring out how to do that?

David Garci-Aguirre:

Well, I'll tell you about our first customer. So this whole thing happened in like, I think it was about six weeks from concept through creation. And our first customer was actually Jordan winery in Napa, a really renowned winery in Napa. And of course, they wanted to make a big media event out of it. So they had cameras, and, you know, the people filming and there's just people all over the place, and quite literally on the way up there. And I probably shouldn't say this, for fear of getting in trouble. But I was in the back of the trailer working on electrical stuff as we were going to Jordan winery. But so we get there and we set it up. And we had hired a was an Italian from the company. We bought the olive oil equipment from they sent a representative from Italy who is going to be with us for about five days. And essentially, that's how we learned we learned what we could in five days. And the reality is in this whole industry, it's all about learning on the fly. There are no schools, there are no dedicated programs to becoming an olive oil maker.

Chris Spear:

And now you're doing it. So you're at corto. And your position is what is called a master Miller. Is that right? That?

David Garci-Aguirre:

Yeah, that's right. It's basically the lead olive oil maker, much like a winemaker.

Chris Spear:

And all the olives are grown there. And you know, we think Italy, we think Spain, but this is a US production.

David Garci-Aguirre:

Yeah, so there's, you know, we kind of we kind of talked about it as a new world of olive oil, there is a new way of planting developed about 20 years ago called super high density or vineyard style. And it literally is the first time in all of oil production history really, that we're able to produce high quality oil at scale. So it's really flipping the entire industry upside down. And, and so we went all in about 20 years ago on this new method, and that and you know, it's California, Australia, you know, New Zealand kind of some of the same New World countries that have done their New World Countries in wine, similar things in olive oil, and that's really transformed the landscape.

Chris Spear:

How long has California been producing olives for olive oil? I mean, it's obviously a relatively new thing. But when did that really start?

David Garci-Aguirre:

Well, it actually started with the monks like way early on. Gosh, I'm trying to remember, I don't remember the exact date. But definitely as the as the Spaniards, the Spanish came through here and started spreading Catholicism, they definitely had olive trees and small, you know, stone Mills back then at different places in California.

Chris Spear:

So it's harvesting look like I know that there's, you know, I've read a little bit, I've watched some videos, you know, kind of one of the ways of mass producing is like, wait until they get black and shake them all off. And that doesn't make good olive oil versus the hand harvesting green. So I'd love for our listeners to get kind of a little overview of like what the harvesting process looks like.

David Garci-Aguirre:

Sure, so let me start off by reminding everyone that olives are a fruit. And like any fruit are actually related to cherries and other stone fruits like any fruit, there's a very short window, when that fruit is at its peak at its prime. And for all of us, that's in October and November. What do I mean by that? I mean that the that's when all those beautiful green flavors that we associate with really high quality olive oil are formed, that's when the poly phenols are at their peak levels. So all those health health benefits that we talked about. All of that happens in a very short window in October and November. Traditionally, the only way to get the fruit off of the trees in that window was to hand harvest. And as he as you can imagine, there is a lot of olive oil consumed around the world way more than we could ever hand harvest. So the vast majority of the olive oil available is what you're describing. It's from fruit that was left on the treat, it becomes overripe, it starts to ferment and the oils that come from those olives are defective. And the reason for that quite literally was technology. There was just no technology to get the fruit off in that window so they let it hang until it's about To drop, they can then shake the trees and then it falls. All of that changed with super high density. So with super high density and and and this new methods of machine harvesting, we can we can harvest in that window in October and November and do so at a scale, we're able to get high quality olive oil into supermarkets and restaurants.

Chris Spear:

You know, I grew up in the 80s. And you know, people didn't cook with like, like my mother never had olive oil. And I distinctly remember the very first time I had it was I took a cooking class in sixth grade. And I'm pretty sure the oil was rancid. You know, like I in my mind's eye, I can still almost taste that. And maybe it's because I wasn't familiar with olive oil. But I remember tasting and saying, This is disgusting, I'm never going to use it. And now my knowledge of oil, you know, it's like one of the big metal tins. God knows how long it had been there. And I just remember it tasting off. And that was my first experience with olive oil, which was unfortunate. But you know, just a few years later, I was in culinary school and fell in love with olive oil.

David Garci-Aguirre:

Yeah, you know all about it, we've made it such a confusing category. But it really is quite simple. If you start with really fresh fruit harvested at the right time, and you are careful in how you extract the oil, you're gonna end up with a beautiful oil. But the reality is, that's the easy part. The hard part is taking that really beautiful oil and getting it into the hands of people that want it. Because unlike wine, olive oil doesn't age, it's at its best when it's made. And from that moment forward, all of our energy has to shift into keeping it fresh, right, keeping light heat and air away from the oil. And that goes through packaging, distribution, everything, we've got to think it all the way through. Unfortunately, most producers don't care, they just say it doesn't matter to them. Right. At the end of the day. They're you know, most Americans don't understand that they've never had fresh oil. So it it just hasn't mattered.

Chris Spear:

What's the shelf life on like a traditional, you know, go to the grocery store, you buy a bottle, it's not in any kind of backpack or anything that's just you know, you pour it out, like, is it oxidizing in that bottle? And kind of like what can you expect timeframe wise on something like that? The

David Garci-Aguirre:

shelf life on most supermarket oils is 00. Nice. That's not good, because they're already rancid or defective from the very beginning. So you know, the shelf life? And this year? The real answer is it depends on so many different things. But the shelf life on a super fresh, high quality olive oil that's really preserved well is and sorry, this is where we get into the weeds. Right? But it's kind of it's fun to nerd out a little. Yeah, absolutely. The question really is what do you mean by shelf life?

Chris Spear:

Yeah, I guess when you start to really get the off flavors of like this is maybe kind of on the turn. And many people probably don't even know what that is. Right? Like, they're just used to that flavor at this point.

David Garci-Aguirre:

Right. So yeah, so that's absolutely right. So if we're defining shelf life as the moment it goes rancid by that point, there's been so much degradation in the oil, that you're way beyond the point of that beautiful, fresh, you know, olive oil flavor that we love. So that beautiful fresh olive oil flavor that we love in perfect conditions might be 12 to 14 months, it'll turn rancid in, you know, anywhere from 16 to 22 months.

Chris Spear:

I don't know that I've ever kept olive oil that long. But, you know, try and use it a way before then. But you know, you have no idea how these things were handled in the processing, packaging, any of that kind of stuff. So, you know, lots of variables there.

David Garci-Aguirre:

Well, that's a great point. If if I can say one more comment, the you know, we do a tasting, that's really designed to show you the impact of you know, fruit harvested at the right time, and fruit that wasn't harvested at the right time. And that's pretty impactful. The second flight is the most impactful. And what we do is we take one of our really high quality oils and we taste it and it's great. We talked about the you know how to taste really fresh oil, we take that exact same oil and we put it in clear glass, and we put it on the roof of our building for five days. And we taste them side by side. And the difference between the two oils is is so impactful. The second oil is already rancid. It's lost its color. It's golden. And and really I think that's the that's the tasting flight that most chefs since we deal with chefs, most chefs are really impacted by just five days. Five days.

Chris Spear:

Wow. Yeah, I recommend anyone who can do tasting I don't think people often enough, especially non professional chefs just pour their oil into a tasting. I'm a big fan of star chefs. I go to the Congress every year. I think I've been there the past 10 years and I know cortos become like a big sponsor there and I've done a few workshops that they have sponsored hurricane Imran I know, is a big supporter of Korto. And I think it his workshop the last time I was there, before they got into what he was doing. We did like a little just tasting of the quarter oil. And that was really phenomenal. Can you talk about the process of producing it? I've heard you talk about it like juice making, I have this very romantic image in my head of using like presses in the old world, but that's not really what you're doing anymore, right?

David Garci-Aguirre:

Yeah, we've, we've definitely moved away from that. I'd say let me start this out by saying that the oils that are being produced today and the best mills around the world, which are, you know, you can probably count them on, you know, two to four hands. The oils that have been produced in these mills is the best that it's ever been. So the reason you know olive oil, we like to say it's fresh, fresh juice, it's not technically juice, we all get that but that framework of thinking is the exactly the right way to think about olive oil. So you have to start with high quality fruit. Right when we get free high quality fruit once it comes off the tree, we have to get it into the mill within hours. If not, then fermentations happen and you get defects in the oil. So the olives are rushed from the field to the mill. We we clean the olives up, we separate anything that comes in like sticks, leaves, anything like that. So all we're left with is really high quality fruit. From then the olives are crushed, they go through what we call a hammer mill. The Hammer basically chops up the olives into almost like a topping up like a paste. And one of the interesting things about olive oil making and this is why I just love being a Miller is the the oil that's in the olives is distributed out throughout the flesh of the olives and teeny tiny, microscopic droplets. And this oil has no color, no aroma, no flavor, nothing. All of the beauty about olive oil really happens in the milling process. So as soon as that those droplets are exposed to the to the water and the skin and everything else in the olives when they're crushed. That's when all of this magic starts to happen. We start to develop flavors, we start to the antioxidant start to move into the oil. So that takes about you know, anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes in a stage called Malik sation where we're slowly agitating that paste in an in a very controlled environment, right? We don't want oxygen in there. We don't want temperature, we do it as cold as possible. So we crushed the olives, we slowly agitate it for about 25 to 40 minutes. And then we use a centrifuge to separate the oil from everything else, right, the pits the the water, the flesh, everything else that that what's leftover we call palmists. The fresh oil then goes through another a centrifuge that polishes the oil up. And that's it. That's all we do from that moment on that oil is at its best, right? And then from there, all of our energy shifts into protecting that oil.

Chris Spear:

And this promise and oil you can use as well. Is that correct? Like I feel like that's something I've seen like that you can order for restaurant use as like a cheaper, less expensive oil.

David Garci-Aguirre:

Yeah, so that so the palmists, which is the leftover bits after so we only get about, let's say 85% of the oil and the olives out. So that leaves a little bit of oil and eponymous. So what's done not so much in the new world, but was done in the old world producing areas is they take the palmists they dry it out into little cakes like little pellets. And then they use a solvent like hexane and they extract the remaining oil. That oil then gets refined bleached and deodorized so that it can be consumed. And then that's what palm oil is. Doesn't sound like something I want to be consuming. Yeah, it's definitely not It's not fresh, high quality olive oil. It's a totally different product. I mean it's essentially what all other seed oils and and vegetable oils are.

Chris Spear:

What type of olives are you using for the oil?

David Garci-Aguirre:

We use three main varieties we use arbequina and our Besana which are two Spanish varietals. And then we use core Iniki which is a Greek variety. We do have about four other trial varieties in the ground which are making some very interesting oils which we'll start to see in the coming years.

Chris Spear:

Do you have like Are you a fan of single varietals olive oils?

David Garci-Aguirre:

I'm a fan of all fresh high quality olive oil whether they're blended single varietals it depends on what you want to do with it right I mean it's I always talk to people of compare olive oil to wine and if you compare like a Pinot to a cab they're very different right you've got a big heavy cab and you've got a really nuanced Pino and let's say the difference is you know, well take a ruler six inches of difference, right? They all have oil world is is when it comes to difference between varietals is spectacular. We're talking multiple feet of difference. So if you take a variety like Oscar Alonso, it's like it's literally like someone's in the kitchen. cutting up a cantaloupe, right? And it's not like get your nose in there and you can detect a little bit of cantaloupe. It smells like a cantaloupe. And then you can go to like P qual and you get like fresh tomato leaves and arbequina. They'll give you, you know, kind of a right fruitiness of bananas. And there's just so much variety in, in olive oil. However, I will preface all of this by saying if the oil is not fresh, and it didn't come from fresh fruit, it does not matter.

Chris Spear:

I love the corn Aniki I have a friend who has an olive oil shop. And that's one of my favorite. Like, if I'm just gonna get a single variety, that's usually what I get just for, you know, like a topping a dish. I don't cook with it. Usually, that's my favorite. And then you get those ones that really burn in the back of your throat. I remember the first time I had an olive oil and was doing a tasting, you're like, Wow, this, like burns like a peppery type burn.

David Garci-Aguirre:

Yeah, that's actually from a compound in olives called oleocanthal. And it's interesting it actually. And let me preface this by saying that I am not a chemist, or I'm not in the medical field in any way. But it from what I've learned, it actually reacts in the back of your throat the same way that ibuprofen would on the same receptors. And it has the same anti inflammatory properties as ibuprofen.

Chris Spear:

Really, that's interesting. I mean, I've heard people talk about all the health benefits of olive oil, and that being one of them. So that's interesting. Yeah, definitely. Is anything done with all the stuff that's left over during the you know, milling process like the skin seed type stuff? Is there any kind of byproduct or anything that you guys do with that?

David Garci-Aguirre:

You know, it, I'd say it's still early right now it goes to cattle feed and compost mostly, one of the interesting things is, you know, we always talk about all of the antioxidants and polyphenols in the oil. The reality is that most of the unique and interesting antioxidants aren't just in the oil, most of them are actually in the water. And that goes in the palmists. If actually in the oil, we capture very little compared to what goes out in the palm it so I think there's definitely opportunities there. Yeah, I'm

Chris Spear:

surprised no one's figured that out yet. But it still sounds like this is a relatively early way of kind of doing the processing, right?

David Garci-Aguirre:

Yeah, if you think about it, you know, the poly phenol levels are highest right in that really short window we talked about, and there's never really been much scale around ultra premium olive oil. So that's all kind of a new industry.

Chris Spear:

I want to talk about, I guess the biggest thing that I hear all the time, which is you don't cook with olive oil, right? Like good olive oils are finishing, you don't heat them, it degrades them to have a low smoke point. So can you kind of set the record straight on this one?

David Garci-Aguirre:

Yeah, sure. Super easy. Olive oil, fresh, high quality olive oil is the most stable cooking oil there is. And I'll tell you why. Now, I'm not going to answer the question of whether or not you should cook with it. It I will tell you that it is a wonderful cooking oil, you can decide if you want to cook with it. So here's why the type of fat that olive oil is is mostly monounsaturated, which is a very stable fat. But if you think about it, you know olive oil is unique because as I said, it's essentially fresh pressed juice, right, every other kind of oil out there. I don't care what it is, goes through a refining, bleaching and deodorizing process, right, so they end up being odorless, colorless, flavorless fats, they also have no micronutrients from these product they came from in them. So they're basically just fat. What makes olive oil special is it not only is it a healthy and stable fat, it also has all of the polyphenols and antioxidants in it from the olives themselves. And these antioxidants do what they anti oxidant, right. So as you increase the temperature in a pan, any oil, it doesn't matter what oil it is the level of oxidation starts increasing as well. So because olive oil has all these natural antioxidants in it, it's much more resistant to oxidation than any other cooking oil out there. Now, the key is has to be fresh and high quality. And I say that because if the fruit if the oil comes from fermented fruit, like most of the quote unquote extra virgin olive oil in the United States, then the the oil will have a lower smoke point. So most of the world's oil actually does have a low smoke point. However, if you're buying fresh, high quality oil, much like this new world production, the smoke points will be just as high as any other cooking oil out there.

Chris Spear:

So if we're using the Corto 100% Extra virgin olive oil, go ahead and saute with it.

David Garci-Aguirre:

Absolutely. Yeah, we

Chris Spear:

do it all the time. But I see you guys also make like a saute blend. That's a mix of different types of oils, right?

David Garci-Aguirre:

Yep. So you know, this is an interesting one. So what we really wanted to do at Lapa del as we wanted, so rice brand which is the backbone of LaPadula or the bulk of LaPadula. It has a very unique care Touristik, it has a lower viscosity and it actually absorbs less, the food absorbs less oil than any other oil out there, the challenge we faced was that rice bran, like every other kind of oil out there is refined. So it's not very stable, right, it doesn't have long shelf life, they go rancid quickly. Even if they have some high smoke points, they're just not very stable. So what we did is we're using the antioxidant power of the extra virgin olive oil, we're putting in there of the high quality extra virgin olive oil in there to help protect the rice brand and the other oils that are in it. So we're able to give the unique property of rice bran oil and, and some of the flavor and the antioxidants from the olive oil that's in there.

Chris Spear:

Well, that's very cool. I have never tried that. But I think I'm gonna have to pick some of that up.

David Garci-Aguirre:

Yeah, it's an interesting product, it really it really like, you know, at the heart of everything we do is fresh, high quality olive oil, you know, and we're just leveraging all of these great benefits of it in other in other ways.

Chris Spear:

So what does the product line of quarto look like?

David Garci-Aguirre:

So we have truly which is our flagship is just it, you know, truly is a consistently high quality, fresh olive oil. And, you know, one of the one of the things that I think differentiates Korto from other companies is that we you know, as as a master Miller, my job doesn't stop at production, right, my job is, is as we define it here is to ensure freshness through the very last drop, right. And most companies, most olive oil companies don't do that, because it's essentially been a commodity for all these years, right? It's a very low quality commodity product. So, you know, when it comes to truly, what you're gonna get is you're gonna get a really consistently fresh, high quality product through the very last drop. And if that's ever not the case, you can tell it that listeners put my email out there, right if they're using our product, and it's not the case, they know who to talk to, there's a face behind it. We also make 5149, which is 51% of the fresh olive oil and 49% of the canola. The intention here was really marinates and dressings, the canola you know olive oil has natural waxes in it because it's not refined, right. And the those waxes when it's chilled, can crystallize. So by adding the canola to it, we can actually get a lot of the flavor from the olive oil without the crystallization so you can make marinates and dressings and put it in the fridge and have no problems. And then the Lapa del as we described as our satay oil.

Chris Spear:

So if you're talking doing like a vinegar ret, would you recommend using the 100% or doing the blend for like a really good Vinagrette?

David Garci-Aguirre:

Alright, so I can take my Korto hat off every now and then yeah, I use extra virgin olive oil for everything. It is such a unique, wonderful product.

Chris Spear:

Going back to the the master milling thing, so what experience like if someone wanted to be a master Miller, like what is the education process look like? What did you go through? I know you kind of like fell into the olive oil business, but what kind of training did you have to go through?

David Garci-Aguirre:

So I would say, you know, my generation and my generation were kind of the first generation of this new world movement. Most of us learned just kind of, you know, by experience, you know, reading, I've, you know, reading chemistry, learning as much chemistry as we can, understanding, you know, equipment and manufacturing, most of us kind of learned, you know, on the fly in the business. What we're trying to do is we're trying to establish curriculums at places like Fresno State UC Davis, so that we can start training the next generation of Millers and, and academics around olive oil in my you know, my main job right now, honestly, is, is training that next generation. So like during harvest, you know, we have, we've identified six people and I'm training them to be the next Korto millers, you know, so

Chris Spear:

what do you guys do throughout the year? So it sounds like you know, October through November is that exclusively when all the harvesting is done, and then the rest of the year you're not doing any harvesting?

David Garci-Aguirre:

That's correct exclusively 24/7 for about 40 days.

Chris Spear:

Wow, that's intense. So what is the rest of the year look like them?

David Garci-Aguirre:

Again, I'll keep going back to this because I think it is really unique, like we like we are all about freshness. And we identified very early on that the best place to store all of oil to keep it as fresh as possible is in our sellers. Right? Our sellers have stainless steel casks, everything's climate controlled, it's all kept under nitrogen. So there's zero oxygen, it's the ideal environment for preserving freshness of olive oil. So we try and keep our oil in our cellars as long as possible so we packaged just in time. So our packaging happens every day throughout the rest of the year packaging and blending and and Everything else happens throughout the rest of the year.

Chris Spear:

I'm sure that's quite a big operation. How many gallons of oil do you have on hand?

David Garci-Aguirre:

Well, we that without getting too detailed, let's just say we have about 2 million gallons of storage.

Chris Spear:

That's quite a bit of oil. There. It is.

David Garci-Aguirre:

And it you know, I'll tell you a kind of a quick story that really, this is why I'm still here. I worked on that mobile mill for four years. And when cordeaux approached me to come here, I had never worked in anything at this scale before. And they took a big chance on me. And I remember, you know, the mobile meal for me was amazing, because that's where I had that aha moment, right? I literally saw fruit olives coming in, and they were beautiful. And then the oil coming out, smelled like something I had never had in my life. And I'm saying this is a Basque family who grew up with olive oil. I had never had fresh olive oil to this point. And when I smelled that fresh olive oil, it was like, Oh my gosh, like I've never This is incredible. Food awakening, right? So I go to Costco. And on my first day at Costco, in about an hour, I'd say maybe about two hours of production, I passed my entire career production to that point. And that first year, we produced and, you know, I was new to that was new to this scale, right? And we produced man, it was almost, I don't remember exactly how much but it was like, like, almost 800,000 gallons of ultra premium oil. And that was the day I realized that this is one of those unique industries where you can scale quality. And that's really what keeps me going is is just like, I want to get fresh olive oil into the hands of as many people as I can. And I think we can do that.

Chris Spear:

The parallels to winemaking just seem so it seems like you're right there. I mean, the way you describe it to me, I'm just picturing like a high end winemaker.

David Garci-Aguirre:

Yeah, it's definitely similar. You know, I was thinking about this earlier, whenever you know how these things are, whenever you haven't podcasts, when they come up, you start thinking about what you want to say. And and I think the one of the reasons we don't understand olive oil is because we don't think about it in the right way to really get it we've got to like, Forget everything we know and start over. And when I say that, because oils in general and in kitchens are thought of as tools. We think of them in the same way as we do like a baking sheet or a knife. We don't think of them is is a food, right? And like and we always joke around here that you know olive oil is the ingredient that farm to table forgot, no one knows who made it, where it came from, how it's made none of that. And we've been trying to use that same frame of mind to understand olive oil. And so I was trying to work on an analogy. And it's a lot like a winemaker, like a Somali a or a winemaker that's trying to make their decisions. Only on the water that's in the wine, right? They're ignoring flavor, color, aroma, tannins, poly phenols, they're just forgetting about all of that and thinking of it in terms of the water. And that's essentially what we've done with all of what we treat it like it's just fat. Right? So so that's why we're eating rancid oil. That's why we'd never think about how fresh our oils are. You know, that's why like, you know, we have all these myths around olive oil.

Chris Spear:

It's like vinegar, you know, for so long, that was just a commodity and most of them didn't even have the mother in them. And he just went to the grocery store and bought this like dollar 99 bottle of like apple cider vinegar. But now I have so many friends who are really doing these high end kind of, you know, right from the farm vinegars and using heirloom vegetables for them and you know, kind of the old school fermentation methods as opposed to just this kind of like, get it out there cheap bottle of throwaway vinegar.

David Garci-Aguirre:

Yeah, and it's so different. Yeah, and like the other thing about oil, especially olive oil is it touches more ingredients in a dish than anything else. Absolutely. You know, the impact it can have is dramatic. What do

Chris Spear:

you think of those like pan spray olive oils, where you just have the can shake it up and spray it on your nonstick pan? No, no, man,

David Garci-Aguirre:

I'm not even gonna comment. Especially if they have aerosols in them, then forget it. Talk about unhealthy.

Chris Spear:

Is there any kind of like Old School New School rivalry? Like, are there people who are still pressing out there kind of maybe in other countries who are like, opposed to technology? And kind of, you know, because I think you always see that when there's a newer maybe better way of doing things and the old standbys are like we do it the traditional, authentic way. Is there any of that with the olive oil business?

David Garci-Aguirre:

I mean, there, there's definitely a traditional olive oil, you know, like like Spain, so Spain's a good example. So, you know, Spain produces over half of the world's oil. They're the largest producer by far. And in Spain, you'll get both, you'll get some very, very traditional coops that have been there for a very long time. that are producing marginal oils. And then you'll get some of the best small boutique producers in the world. Right. Now, one of the interesting things that's happening in Spain, specifically Portugal is a lot of the Spanish companies, the big ones that have a lot of these traditional coops are putting very modern and advanced Mills with this new method of planting in Portugal, because the everyone knows the writing's on the wall, right? Like the, quote unquote, extra virgin category as we know it is going away. And it's going to, you know, theoretically, we're, we should be seeing a big increase in quality.

Chris Spear:

I don't know that we specifically touched on this, but what is extra virgin versus like, you know, not extra virgin olive oil?

David Garci-Aguirre:

Sure. So you know, I like I like to describe extraversion as getting a D in school. So it's a minimum standard. And quite literally, there are two components to the standard. There's a chemistry component, and there's a sensory component. And that definition is that they're there for the sensory, right, so you'll get a sensory panel and accredited sensory panel, they'll taste these oils blind, and all they're looking for is a defect, if they find a defect is not extraversion. If there is no defect, then it is extraversion. So you know, I always joke that's why I say it's like a D in school. It doesn't mean you did anything, right. It just means that there's nothing wrong with it. And I just, you know, back to olive oil being a tool, I always joke with with chefs, when I'm talking to Emily, imagine going to like magic going to your fish person, right? Like your fishmonger. And this Fred boat of fresh fish comes in and you're super excited and and you're just say, You know what, give me something that's got nothing wrong with it. So he goes to the back, right, and he grabs a fish that's been there for four or five or six days. Still not quite defective yet. And he hansy That fish. It's just such a backwards way of thinking about olive oil.

Chris Spear:

Yeah, because it just seems to be like, you know, oh, you go in Costco. And there's like, the giant gallon thing of like, extra virgin olive oil. And then there's like, they're less expensive. One of just like, it just says olive oil. You know, it's like for the consumers who are maybe buying things based on price alone. It's like, oh, what's the difference of these and then you go to stores that have like 17 different, you know, all extra virgin olive oils, and the prices are like all over the map. I just think it's so overwhelming for the average consumer. And that's just the average consumer, like a chef who hasn't really studied this.

David Garci-Aguirre:

It totally is. And I that's precisely why we're in this pickle that we're in now. And honestly, if we could take the word extroversion off of all of our packaging, I would be more than happy to and just talk about fresh, high quality olive oil, you know, a little clarity. So if it has a defect is not extra virgin, if that defect is so great, that it's virgin, right? So because let me take a step back. So if it has a defect is not extra virgin, it's virgin. If that defect is so great, if it hits a limit that is not fit for human consumption anymore, it's called lum Ponte, la Ponte oil cannot be consumed. So it must be refined. Right? So it's refined, bleached, and deodorized. Just like all the other oils out there, that strips away any flavor, and the aroma, anything that's in that all of us essentially becomes a fat that then gets blended with some extra virgin olive oil. And that becomes your olive oil like all these other categories you have. So it that's the part that just blows my mind is your top grade is a D in school. Right? Oh,

Chris Spear:

that's that's like mind blowing the idea that we take something that's not fit for consumption, bleach it deodorize it and mix it with the best stuff. And then it's just like, here's your really average stuff that's okay to eat now.

David Garci-Aguirre:

Yeah, that's how all edible oils are made. They quite literally are not fit for human consumption. When they're extracted, they have to go through a refining, bleaching and utilization process. That's what makes all bills so special.

Chris Spear:

I think we're gonna change some minds when this podcast comes out. I hope people are going to change their olive oil consumption habits. So like, why is Korto exclusively focused on foodservice? If you have such an amazing product? Why is this not mass marketed and on every shelf in the grocery store? And is that something that we could potentially see?

David Garci-Aguirre:

I'll answer that in two ways. So you know, cordeaux, our sister company Stanislaus food products is a fresh cat fresh pack, tomato producer and very know very well known in food service are there. They've had a long history of really premium tomato sauces and tomato products. And their focus is primarily foodservice. So for us as a family company, you know that both companies are part of the family food service is what we do. Right? We know chefs, we talked to chefs, that's where we focus. Now. I'm going to also answer it like this. I told you that as a master Miller, my job is to guarantee that every last drop of Oil is fresh, I could not do that in retail, like I can in food service. There the distribution, we're able to turn oil fast in food service, right? So chefs use it from the moment it leaves our casts, through through getting to restaurants and going through consumption, we're talking a couple of months in retail that's a lot longer, and there's a lot less control. And that's why even oils that weren't good when they started, right brands that you can trust, you know, they're trying to do the right thing. A lot of times in retail, you'll get their oils, and they'll be rancid. So that's honestly why we focus only on you know, food service and then direct to consumer for all of our home chefs is, you know, because we know then it's going straight from our from our sellers straight to the someone's house in four days.

Chris Spear:

So anyone can just go on your website and order it and have it sent to their house, whether they're a restaurant or not.

David Garci-Aguirre:

That's correct, yeah, then go on to a website, then you can get it on Amazon, you just have to make sure that it's us selling it because as with all Amazon things, sometimes you'll get people that are selling two year old product or

Chris Spear:

Oh, yeah, I mean, um, yeah, I've seen some nightmare things on there, and people who are switching out products, you order one thing, and then someone's like taking it out and putting their own stuff in it. You know, before you know, there'll be like this weird black market knockoff olive oils? I'm sure it's probably actually already a thing. Oh, yeah,

David Garci-Aguirre:

totally. Totally. It's out there.

Chris Spear:

So strange times we live in? What do you want to talk about with olive oil that we haven't gotten into? Are there any, like big things you want to get in front of the audience?

David Garci-Aguirre:

You know, I just I just want to keep driving home the fact that like, we have to think about it differently, we can't use the same way we've been thinking about olive oil, you know, as an edible oil, it will just never fully appreciate what it is. Right? And if we can think about it in terms of fruit juice, and if you can close the loop on the process of making it, who made it, how was it made, so that you trust the producer that it comes from? Right. And now that we're all you know, we're all experts after this podcast, right? So absolutely, that we know that light Heating, Air impact olive oil, if you can just consider that when you're buying it. I think we're all going to come off from a much better place. The other point that I think is really important is one that you made. And I think this goes like I can't stress this enough taste your oil, taster oil, and why once you've had a fresh olive oil. And you know, I always when I do tastings, I give people three tools. And with these three tools you can you can identify if an olive oil is fresh or not number one, when you smell it, it should take you back to the garden. It should smell like fresh things, herbs, fruits, fresh cut grass, right things that come from, from your garden, things that are fresh and alive and vibrant and green. Number two, we talked about that warming sensation in the back of your throat, right, that comes from poly phenols that are there in that really short window when fruit SAT is best. So make sure it takes you back to the garden. Make sure it has a nice warm, spicy feeling. And number three, and this might be one of the best. After you've tasted it, wait a minute or two. And your mouth should be crystal clean, just like you're drinking juice. If it's greasy, or it feels like you put on lip gloss or like you chopped into a stick of butter, something that comes from an oil degrading that oil is no longer fresh.

Chris Spear:

That's interesting. I didn't know anything about that.

David Garci-Aguirre:

Yeah, so with those three tools does it take me back to the garden? Does it have a warm spicy feeling? And is it super clean in my mouth and on my lips and everywhere that finish with those three tools you can identify fresh oil and 95% of the cases.

Chris Spear:

And one of the things you guys do at Costco is like bagging a box right? So it's staying fresher longer. So you don't have I know you have bottles that you can buy but for you know, especially the bigger like the restaurants it's a bag in a box. I mean, no, that's not something we see with anyone else. Why is no one doing it? It seems like it makes sense.

David Garci-Aguirre:

Yeah, I mean, it totally makes sense. I think no one's doing it because it's just hasn't been done right. I mean, if you think about it back to light heat and air, right, the box blocks all of the light. The box cardboard acts as a great insulator so it protects it when it's out there in warehouses or in UPS trucks. And then the bag itself protects the oil from air not just until you open it but the entire time you use it that bag collapses on itself. So air never gets into the oil. And that's why I say that that's the only way really is with bagging box that we can guarantee oils freshness through the last drop.

Chris Spear:

Wow, this has been such a great education on olive oil, like I want to I want everyone to kind of think about how they're cooking with olive oil and using it because again, like you said, you know, it's just kind of a throwaway. So often you just grab a random bottle and and a food cost is so high right now whether it be You know, for the consumer and restaurants I think people are looking at, you know, what maybe cost a little less. And it's like, they're they're going with some really subpar ingredients because they're trying to pinch pennies.

David Garci-Aguirre:

But we explain it this way, you know, if you're gonna take a $15 protein, and put it on a dish, and then put rancid olive oil all over it at just like, it blows my mind, right? Like, what are we doing?

Chris Spear:

It just doesn't make sense. I mean, my style of cooking is somewhat minimal, like, less is more. And I think when you focus on less is more, you really have to make sure all those ingredients are kind of hitting on all levels, right?

David Garci-Aguirre:

Yeah, I agree that there's kind of this like, perfect symphony that happens. And I and olive oil can be such a key part of that. And that's why like, you know, we sell truly and it's a great versatile oil. But once you open the door to fresh olive oil, I encourage everyone to go out and try other varietals and other oils as well, because it's such a unique food product.

Chris Spear:

Well, this might be controversial, but Spain or Italy?

David Garci-Aguirre:

Well, they're, they're both out of the World Cup. So it doesn't matter. Oh.

Chris Spear:

Any final words before we get out of here today?

David Garci-Aguirre:

You know, I, the thing that excites me the most is once we open this door to fresh, high quality oil. I can't wait to see what chefs do with it. You know, that's the part that I like, I just, I'll make the tool right you guys then you do what you do. And I think we're gonna see a whole new world of food and flavors. I

Chris Spear:

think it's really cool to see it in desserts, you know, like olive oil cakes, or like a drizzle on top of a dessert just like really incorporating it into sweet things where maybe you weren't seeing that before?

David Garci-Aguirre:

Yeah, I agree. Or in cocktails, like the impact that the aromatics having cocktails is really interesting baked goods. I mean, it's just like I said, it's the whole like, once you start thinking about it the right way. It's it's a new world.

Chris Spear:

I haven't seen it in cocktails, is it like fat washing that then is going to be chilled and removed or just like mixed into a drink? Have you seen something really interesting with olive oil,

David Garci-Aguirre:

both I've seen fat washing, I've seen foams. I've seen finishing so that the aromatics come up and it coats your it kind of adds body to the cocktail. I've seen several different techniques.

Chris Spear:

Well, I'm gonna search for some of those and post them up in the show notes. Because I always like to add little extra resources and stuff for people who like to go through the shownotes.

David Garci-Aguirre:

We might have some recipes on our website, can't remember if we have cocktail recipes on there as well. But

Chris Spear:

I'll poke around through that. And I will link everything in the show notes so people know where to buy your product and how to get it and additional info if they want to dig a little deeper. Thanks so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate you taking the time today.

David Garci-Aguirre:

Yeah, thank you very much. I really enjoyed it. And to all of our

Chris Spear:

listeners. This has been Chris with the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast, have a great week. Go to chefs without restaurants.org To find our Facebook group, mailing list and check database. The community is free to join. You'll get gig opportunities, advice on building and growing your business and you'll never miss an episode of our podcast. Have a great week.