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Members of the Associate Register

 Associate Savante status is bestowed on those that achieve a score of at least 18/30 thereby demonstrating that their skill level deserves recognition.

The Twentyman family have Oceanview Estate olive grove north of the Bay of Islands in the far north of the New Zealand North Island. Alex first participated in the Savantes programme in 2010, where he undertook the ‘Testing Your Skills as a Taster’ taste and knowledge tests. Returning to the Melbourne programme in July 2012 he achieved the 60% mark required for Associate Savante status. Alex is the second participant to achieve this status which was introduced in 2009.

Alexis Kerner, born in Philadelphia, moved to Seville, Spain in 2003 after receiving her university degree in Environmental Studies. 

It was in Andalusia that she began to appreciate the olive culture and the Mediterranean cuisine. However, not until studying under Dr. Brígida Jiménez did she became fully hooked on the wonders of extra virgin olive oil. She could not get enough so after short courses at the PDO of Priego de Córdoba and the University of Seville, Alexis decided to move to Jaén to complete the program offered by the International Olive Council at the University of Jaén.

Alicia Serrano Gómez is an Agronomist and holds a Masters Degree in Olive Growing and Oil Technology. Her interest in the olive sector and olive oil is because she was born and raised in Priego de Córdoba, in the bosom of a family that for many generations has been fully dedicated to the cultivation of olive groves. 

Alicia has had the opportunity to work in research projects on olive oil in IFAPA research centers (The Institute of Agricultural Research and Training, Fisheries, Food and Organic Production in Andalusia). 

Currently Alicia is engaged as a quality manager in Mueloliva and is a training taster for the Tasting Panel of the Protected Designation of Origin from Priego de Córdoba.  

She is really passionate about her job and the possibility of defending the quality of extra virgin olive oils, which would be impossible without sensory analysis or tasting.  

Truly passionate of the culture of the olive tree and its precious and healthy olive oil, I was lucky enough to be born in Priego de Córdoba, capital of AOVE. I have been working in olive growing for 30 years now. Since then, I have experienced the professionalisation of the whole sector from cultivation to the elaboration of the ‘liquid gold’, which has contributed to the highest quality standards.

Around the year 2000 I joined the Panel de Cata of Comité Regulador de la Denominación de Origen from Priego de Córdoba, where I developed my role as an olive oil-taster. At the same time, I have been giving courses of introduction to olive oil tasting and elaboration of high quality olive oil, for agrarian professionals and other organizations.

I live in the Subbética Cordobesa -the mountainous area in the South of Córdoba.  It is a traditional  olive-growing region where I am involved in growing olives trees that have passed  from generation to generation  and producing olive oil which comes within official classification of  Denominación de Origen Protegida  Priego de Córdoba.

From a young age, the olive grove has been part of my life. My interest in olive oil was born from a childhood full of memories, smells, sensations and a wide range of colours: fruits of the most vivid green to the blackest jet.  These experiences kindled a passion for olive oil. Every day is an opportunity to improve my knowledge, and taking part in the tasting panel was a great way to learn more.

Bartolomé Ortega Moreno was born in Fuerte del Rey (Jaen) and from childhood has been closely linked to the olive grove and olive oil. He graduated in Olive Growing and Olive Oil Technology with a Masters in Olive Grove, Olive Oil and Health from the University of Jaen.

He currently works as an official in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment of Spain.

Brie Thompson is the proud co-founder of Olivelle in Bozeman, Montana, USA. She is passionate about sharing her love for high quality extra virgin olive oils.

In 2009, Olivelle started as a small retail boutique that features high quality extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars as well as herbs, spices, and fine ingredients.

Cécile Le Galliard comes from the north of France where butter is traditionally used for cooking. After gaining a diploma in communication, she moved to Spain, olive oil country to continue her studies. This was where her olive oil education started, where she changed her cooking habits and became passionate about olive oil. Cécile Le Galliard is now a French expert in olive oil tasting. She is a recent graduate of the University of Jaén (Spain) in virgin olive oil tasting.

In 2015 I joined Conga Foods, one of Australia’s leading private, family-owned companies and the largest importer of Spanish Olive Oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil in Australia. For the last decade I have worked in the FMCG Industry having worked at  Kraft Foods, Mondelez International and Kailis Bros Seafood in various roles across Sales Management and Account Management. The move to Conga Foods has exposed me to the complex world of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

As a part of my professional development I was lucky enough to attend the Extra Virgin Olive Oil Savantes Tasting Program in November 2015 in Melbourne. During the program I had the opportunity to taste and evaluate some of the world’s best Extra Virgin Olive Oils of different varietals. During the course I was exposed to the complex and diverse world of Extra Virgin Olive oil which was both intriguing and thoroughly enjoyable.

I am looking forward to further exploring the world of Extra Virgin Olive oil throughout my career.

Cristina Garrido was born in Baeza (Jaén), in Spain. Co-founder of ‘AOVE Sour & Hot’ blog and Community Manager specialised in olive oils. She is a strong defender of ‘Extra Virgin’ olive oil and Food and Agriculture Marketing and she is in love with it. Cristina has been strongly involved in the area since she was a child, owing to the familiar dedication to the olive  for more than four generations. Thus, it could be said that olive oil ‘is in her blood’.

Cristina was born in Jerez de la Frontera (Spain). She graduated in Science and Food Technology from the University of Granada and is a lover of  EVOO .

The passion for EVOO has led her to create a website exclusively dedicated to EVOO and the fascinating world around it, www.cataole.com, whose main purpose is to convey to consumers the needed knowledge to differentiate the commercial classes, to know the existing varieties, to learn about sensory analysis, to know the health benefits of consuming EVOO and the most important thing, to learn to enjoy EVOO .

She also collaborates with olive oil companies doing the tastings and the EVOO tasting notes accompanying the labelling of EVOO bottles.

Dagmar is founder and partner of ESSD consulting and located in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and an international Sales & Marketing professional with 30 year’s experience in setting up businesses and growing brands in Europe, Asia and Latin-America.

Growing up in a food-loving family, Dagmar has a passion for sustainable, honest and healthy food products. This resulted in 2008 in developing a special interest for high quality OliveOil products. Today Dagmar combines her expertise with her passion for food.  The outcome is the ESSD project “GreenBites” – an Online Sales and Marketing Platform for sustainable farmers of high quality, organic food products with a “farm-to-table” mission.  Apart from that ESSD consulting also supports sustainable farmers with their B2B development in Europe, Asia and the United States.

"My relationship with the olive oil world began since I started my working life in 1997. Currently, I am a commercial agent dedicated to providing a brokerage service, advice and classification including tasting olive oils and seed oils in bulk.

My main goal is that my clients buy or sell in the domestic or international market with total security and tranquility in order to get a solid and lasting business relationship.

I belong to the Panel associated with O.D. Priego de Córdoba

My name is Eduard Tejedor and I was born in an area where Arbequina extra virgin olive oil is one of the products most highly regarded.

I have a degree in chemistry in UB (University of Barcelona) and I also studied a  master’s degree in Food Law and Food Safety in UAB. In my last year of university I got a few insights into aroma creation by professional “noses” and water tasting. Since these courses, I have pursued with enthusiasm the world of organoleptic tasting.

I work in Borges Agricultural & Industrial Edible Oils in the quality department and I became a member of the internal panel test of extra virgin olive oil 6 years ago. Every day of the year I taste a lot of samples from all around the world. If some days I don’t taste any oil, I miss something.

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En el año 2010, comencé a trabajar en la empresa Capricho Andaluz S.L., como controller de producción y logístico.  Es a partir de ahí, cuando empiezo a conocer todo lo que rodea al mundo de aceite.

Enrique de la Torre was born in Jaén (Spain) and comes from a traditional family of olive growers. Graduating as an Industrial Engineer from the Higher Technical School of Engineering of Seville (ETSI), his passion lay in olive oil, technology and ecology. Since 2010 he has assumed his role as CEO of IngeOliva SL. and directs Cortijo el Puerto, a family farm in Lora del Río (Seville) that has specialized in precision organic farming.

His focus has been to create an ecosystem dream, restoring biodiversity under the criteria of creating a green economy, innovation and environmental sustainability. To date, the farm harbors ten varieties of olive trees, all planted in accordance with high-density farming practices (hedgerow) that delivers maximum quality and yield.

Eryn Balch joined the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) as Executive Vice President in January 2012.  Formed in 1989 and headquartered in Neptune, NJ, the NAOOA advocates for global olive oil standards enforcement and fair competitive trade, as the U.S. is the largest importer of olive oil in the world. Other key activities include buyer, dietitian and consumer education and efforts to increase olive oil consumption in North America.  Promotions efforts focus on fostering a clear understanding of the different grades of olive oil and making consumers aware of the taste, versatility and health benefits of olive oils.

In 1997 I achieved a High Degree in Environmental Chemistry in Tarragona. It had little to do with sensory analysis…

In 1998 I started working in the Quality Department laboratory of Borges Agricultural & Industrial Edible Oils, a company located in Tàrrega (Lleida), and one of the leaders in the export market of extra virgin olive oil.

After a while I joined the olive oil panel in Borges, to which I still belong. The management of the internal panel test and the daily testing of different samples received, allows me to train, progress and increase my knowledge of the sensory characteristics of olive oil, which is a fundamental strategic activity in the company.

I thank the Association Savantes for the opportunity and recognition given to me as a taster of oils, which encourages me to continue to improve in the future.

Gabriel Estevez, currently the Chief Operating Officer of Sovena USA, was Born in Seville (Spain) where he attained a Chemistry degree and later a Doctorate with a thesis based on physical refining of olive oil. His professional career has been entirely with Sovena starting in Seville and then moving to the USA in 2006. He has acted in the position of Quality Assurance Manager and Production Manager with the additional responsibility of olive oil procurement for the Sovena plant in Rome, NY. and since 2011 as Chief Operating Officer.

Gabriele and her partner Dave Waddell are Canadians on a quest to bring quality olive oil to Western Canada. They are investigating the feasibility of importing olive oil from small scale organic farmers and marketing through an olive oil tasting business. 

Gerald has worked for Sovena USA, a part of Sovena Group, for the past three years in the quality department under the direction of Dr. Gabriel Estevez.

For the past year has been the Food Defense Manager, in which Gerald oversees the in-house laboratory, oil blending, and assists in the procurement of olive oils.

Hayley Stevens is a graduate from the Corso Superiore at the renowned Italian culinary school, Alma, in Parma, Italy. She has experience in kitchens from the north to south of Italy; between Oderzo, outside of Venice under the tutelage of Alessandro Breda, to Licata, Sicily where she worked with Pino Cuttaia at La Madia. Hayley was employed on the Amalfi coast at the 2 Michelin star restaurant Don Alfonso where she spent several years enjoying cooking with fresh products from the fertile Vesuvian land and the nearby Mediterranean sea. 

Ignacio Segura is passionate about nutrition and biodiversity and while his real vocation was for food processing he specialized in olive oil by chance. Back in 1999, he noticed that there was a department called "Tasting Panel" in a government building in the region he is from and it piqued his curiosity. He thought it would be a panel for wine tasting and was surprised to learn they were tasting olive oil!

Janet was born in 1999 in Priego de Córdoba, where she still lives with her family, which is closely linked to the world of olives and oil. That is why from her earliest years she could discover her love for that world.

Since 2009 she has attended the Youth School for tasting created that year for the POD Priego de Córdoba in order to educate future tasters and promote sensory analysis.

Next year she will start Business Management Studies at  University and would love to continue to be linked to the oil world in the future because she is passionate about it.

José Antonio López  is a Spanish professional who specialises in foreign olive oil trade and oleo-tourism.

He is currently employed as Export Manager in Almazaras de la Subbetica. He also leads regular oleo-tourism visits and farmer workshops.

José Antonio Torres Aguilera is a chemist and olive oil expert with experience as an export agent. Official olive oil taster for the Tasting Panel P.O.D. Priego de Córdoba. Mr. Torres has worked as a technical manager in different mills, in which he has taken an active role in the production and selection of extra virgin olive oils that have been awarded worldwide (Spanish Food Awards by the Ministry of Agriculture and Mario Solinas by the International Olive Oil Council, among others).

He is currently working as an external consultant for several laboratories and mills. In 2016 he was part of the winning team in the 1st Spanish National Extra Virgin Olive Oil Tasting Championship.

José Joaquín is from Cordoba (Spain) and was born into an  olive oil farming family. His passion for this product comes from a very young age when he decided to dedicate his professional life to the olive tree and its blessed product. He is passionate about communicating the virtues of Extra Virgin Olive Oil through projects and work in factories or with those wishing to get a great Extra Virgin Olive Oil with premium features. He works as an independent consultant in counselling, communication and development of quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Recognition as an "Associate Savantes" for José Joaquín "is a pride and a great reward for many years of work and dedication to the world of tasting Extra Virgin Olive Oil"

José Manuel Muela Rodríguez was born and grew up amongst olives and olive oil aromas because of he belongs to the third generation of olive oil producers, an activity was started by his grandfather in 1942.

José Manuel joined the family business in 2004 and in 2009 he was appointed Manager of Almazara de Muela S.L., which is a mill protected by the Denomination of Origin Priego de Córdoba. “Venta del Barón” and “Mueloliva Picuda” are two brands of extra virgin olive oil produced in Almazara de Muela following a philosophy linked to obtain a high quality product.

José Manuel with his two brothers, Rafael and Mateo, are the responsible of placing “Venta del Barón” and “Mueloliva Picuda” within the top of the world best olive oils.

Julio was born in Priego de Córdoba. He  specialized in Olive Growing and Oil Technology  at the University of Cordoba., and has a masters degree at the University of Jaen as a virgin olive oil taster.

He is an environmental lover, he works as agricultural technical engineer in his own firm giving advice and controlling the oil production for many brands.

He is a taster of the official Panel of POD of Priego de Cordoba. 

Karen Cryan lives in Dublin, Ireland. She is the first Irish associate member of Savantes. Karen first became an olive oil enthusiast when she lived in Greece for five years. There, she developed a love of all things Mediterranean, particularly olive oil. Having set out to find out more about olive oil, she has over the last number of years, completed training in olive oil tasting in London, Italy and Spain. She has also been involved recently in judging for the Armonia International Extra Virgin Olive Oil competition.

Katalin Karpati, currently Business Development Director in Sovena USA, was born in Hungary. She received her Master’s degree in Economics and Business Administration in Vienna, Austria where she was granted the opportunity to spend one year at the University of Seville, Spain.

While there, she fell in love with the culture of the region and decided to start her professional career there. She has been working in Sovena Group since 2008, spending the first 7 years in the export department of Sovena Spain.

Laura Gonzalez's biography will be available soon

Lauren is originally from Birmingham, Alabama and is a graduate of Auburn University.  She has worked at Whole Foods Market since 2010 and am currently a Buyer on the Exclusive Brands Team.  She manages various grocery categories, including Oils.  Lauren is currently responsible for managing the Extra Virgin Olive Oil Assortments in the 365 and Whole Foods Market brands.  

Lauren says that she has gained a lot of industry and sensory knowledge from the Savantes program.  "This training has helped me become more proficient in my job as well has assisted me in making more informed purchasing decisions".

Since my arrival in the Gard (France) in 1986, I have been passionate about the olive tree.

A small olive grower, with 240 olive trees, I produce green olives à la picholine and extra virgin olive oil, mostly PDO Olive oil of Nîmes (AOP Huile d’olive de Nîmes). www.oleotus.fr
After pursuing a degree in the science of olive oil (DUOL Montpellier 2011), I decided to specialise in what pleases me most particularly: olive oil tasting.

Maria works with the Sovena Group, one of the world’s largest olive oil trading companies and is based in Seville, Spain. She joins her colleague Gabriel Estevez of Sovena USA who became the first Associate Savante in the USA in the New York programme in February. 

My interest in olive oil started when my husband John and I started planning an olive grove, Oasis Olives, in Peru in 2007. We did not know anything about olives or olive oil. We decided we needed to grow olives in Australia first to educate ourselves. We bought an olive grove in the Goulburn Strathbogie region in Victoria, Australia, built a mill with good machinery and started processing olives in the 2010 season. 

Nathalie Valladier lives in Montpellier in the South of France and currently works as Quality Auditor in a pharmaceutical company. She began in 2010 to rehabilitate her grandmother’s olive grove that had remained uncultivated since the severe frost event of 1956. Three years later, she decided to go back to the Faculty of Pharmacy to take a university degree in oleology (Diplôme Universitaire d’Oléologie). She was convinced that this diploma would help her to better understand olive cultivation and produce high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil with her family olive grove.

Nicole Falk is the sensory descriptive panel leader for the North American Food Application team, a business unit within Cargill Incorporated.

Nicole’s food industry experience involves positions in sensory including quality assurance, descriptive panel leader and consumer research roles. Nicole holds a food science degree from University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She works at the Minneapolis, Minnesota, Cargill’s World Headquarters.

He was born in Porcuna (Jaén), his family devoted their life to olive trees. He loves Nature and olive fields. He studied an Enviromental Science degree and he has done a Máster on “Olive Oil and Health” in Jaén University.

That was the time when he discovered his real passion “olive oil”. Then, he became an expert on virgin oil-tasting.

Nowadays, he works tasting oil daily in a laboratory. “When tasting, you go into a unique and amazing world, smells that bring back memories, new feelings that make you go on finding out what each evoo has and what make it so special”

Patricia Gámez Tena’s interest in olive oil began when she moved to Jaén in southern Spain, the world capital of EVOO.

She studied a Masters degree specialising in olive groves, olive oil and health at the University of Jaén. After that she became a professional virgin olive oil taster at the same university.

Nowadays, she is interested in the promotion of EVOO, in order to improve the knowledge  consumers have of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. 

Rafael Muela was born in Jaén in Spain and is a member of the 3rd generation of a family involved in olive oil since 1942. He is a member of the Board of Directors of Mueloliva and Almazara de Muela, companies which have developed throughout his career and where he is also Commercial and Marketing Director.

Rafel and his brothers, among other achievements, have turned Venta del Baron and Mueloliva Picuda into two of the best extra virgin olive oils worldwide. Venta del Baron has held the accolade ‘Best Extra Virgin Olive in the World’ for two consecutive years.

Rick Cummisford holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Bradley University and excelled in Organic Chemistry. His career of over twenty years has taken him through many aspects of the fats and oils industry, from applied Sciences in specialized industries, process development and engineering projects to sales of Oleo-chemical products to upper management roles overseeing research and development, product development, quality assurance and control, regulatory and many direct customer related consultations for a variety of processes, products and applications.

Sonia was born in Priego de Córdoba (Spain), within a family involved with olive oil and its production. In 2002 she started to work in Almazaras de la Subbetica, where she manages the quality control, organoleptic analysis and bulk olive oil.

From that moment she began tasting olive oils and she became a member of the tasting panel in Priego de Cordoba Certificate of Origin.

Sophie Delpuech has a Master’s degree in the History and Culture of Food from the University of Tours (France). She is a gastronome, with a curiosity and passion for olive oil. She is the founder of the « école buissonnière de culture culinaire de Lyon » (www.ebulytion.fr), a school for foreign students and tourists in Lyon that teaches the art of eating well and French gastronomy.

Her knowledge and experience in selecting and selling olive oil was gained by working in a specialist shop for several years, followed by extensive studies. 

Stephanie is the olive oil product line manager for Cargill Global Edible Oils Solutions, a business within Cargill.

Stephanie has had various positions within Cargill in finance and marketing.

Sue Witeof is currently the Research & Development Director for Foodservice Oils at Cargill Dressings, Sauces & Oils, a business unit within Cargill Incorporated. Sue’s food industry experience includes positions in quality assurance, product development and technical service.  Sue holds degrees in Biology and Art from Capital University and a Master’s Degree in Food Science from Kansas State University.

Tala joined the family business of olive oil production in 2009. With a strictly corporate and financial background this was a pit stop in between jobs. Later she became driven by the possibilities of this undervalued sector in Jordan as well as an advocate for quality in the midst of a very challenging local and international market environment. This also produced her passion for anything and everything olive oil and a thirst for knowledge for which Savantes has provided a platform for learning, networking and sharing experience which is the heart of this business and what takes it forward.