Talking with Eataly NYC olive oil expert

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If you live in Tuscany, chances are you’ve been called on by friends to help with their olive harvest or you have olive trees yourself. If you’re here for a visit, you are most likely enjoying flavorful Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil where it is grown and pressed. But what about our friends back in the United States? How can they enjoy the true flavors and be sure that they are getting authentic Tuscan oil? We talked to Nicholas Coleman, olive oil buyer for Eataly, about his profession and his passion.

Meet Nicholas Coleman, olive oil buyer for Eataly

Oonagh Stransky: Tell me about your relationship with Arezzo and the surrounding countryside.

Nicholas Coleman: In 2007 I embarked on a journey from the Arctic Circle in Finland down to the Sahara Desert in Morocco. It was my quest for truth, understanding and adventure, of the sort many people undertake in their early twenties. I happened to be in Italy during the olive harvest and was put in contact with Nadia Gasperini Rossi, from the ancient city of Arezzo. She took me under her wing, showed me how to hand-harvest, hand-clean and coddle olives from tree to mill in mint condition.

OS: What was the most difficult aspect of your training with the Italian Olive Oil Tasters Organization?

NC: I had spent years tasting hundreds of oils from around the world, so I had a pretty clear sense of identifying regional olive cultivars based on their smell, flavor and texture. Two weeks before the course, I abstained from alcohol, coffee, dairy and meat. I basically maintained a vegan diet. This process effectively neutralized my palate so I could sense the subtle nuances in oil.

OS: What is your role at Eataly in NYC?

NC: I spend most of my time at Eataly educating the public and staff about the 100+ extra virgin olive oils we carry. It’s the finest selection of single-estate mono-cultivar Italian oils in America. I also teach the master class at Lidia Bastianich’s culinary school, highlighting the unique organoleptic properties of oils from throughout Italy.

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