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An Olive Oil Sommelier Finds Her Passion

Susan Julia Abranovic writes about how her passion for food and company led to a dream life as an olive oil sommelier.

Susan Julia Abranovic

As a child, I had no idea how blessed I was to have grown up with a farm in my backyard. Watching the garden beds change through the seasons, observing the smell, taste, color and energy of each fruit, vegetable or herb, made me appreciate how incredibly beautiful fresh ingredients are. My great grandmother, grandmothers, and mother were constantly preparing simple dishes made with just a few ingredients from the freshest bounty of the season; quiet masterpieces in presentation, flavor and nutrition.

Food brought us all together, creating an eternal bond that nurtured our body and soul. It was one of the ways they expressed their love to our family and friends.

I believe these family meals around the table fueled my passion to share the joy of good food through creating beautiful plates and experiences for the people I love. Looking back, I can see how this passion was always present in my life, sometimes on the fringes and other times on center stage.

My career started in design and evolved into Staging Grace, a company I founded in 2000. We specialized in designing and staging warm, inviting home environments centered around entertaining for both private residential clients and media outlets like the Today Show’s “Southern Living” segments. We also offered event design, planning and recipe/menu development services, which led to my next career phase.

I spent the next 13 years helping Italian specialty artisan food brands expand their distribution into food service, retail, and distributor accounts through events, brand ambassadorships, tastings, and education. Working with these passionate and inspired artisans from Italy and Europe, I was brought back to the wonder of my childhood, watching a few of the very best ingredients transform into amazing dishes.

Extra virgin olive oil was one category in particular that drew me in. I had always known olive oils had a variety of health benefits, but there was so much more to this golden elixir.

Susan Julia Abranovic of Susan Julia - Olive Oil, Etc.
Susan Julia Abranovic

I dove into the world of olive oils, studied with the Savantes tasting program, earned an Olive Oil Sommelier certification from the Olive Oil Times Education Lab and additional certifications at ONAOO in Italy. As my knowledge grew, I continued to marvel at its health benefits and versatility in the kitchen. I learned the nuances between olive oils, why one olive oil cost $8 and another $40, how to tell if an olive oil was fresh or old, blended or pure EVOO, how was it made, and optimally stored. I loved how, like wine, different olive oils imparted different aromas and flavors depending on the cultivar and terroir.

Soft buttery Ligurian olive oil perfectly complements white delicate fish preparations, and is equally delicious on ice cream with a sprinkle of sea salt. A Tuscan EVOO with notes of artichoke and an underlying bitterness demonstrates a high level of polyphenols (antioxidants) and perfectly complements bitter greens such as kale and is well suited for all meat dishes. Herbaceous Sicilian EVOO will elevate any salad by adding an amazing level of freshness, as well as being fabulous on pasta and all seafood dishes!

Throughout all my courses, I found tasting was the only way to understand how truly magical, versatile, and transformative olive oils could be.

Susan Julia Abranovic with her beloved olives.
Susan Julia Abranovic with her beloved olives.

This realization led me to my newest venture, Susan Julia - Olive Oil, Etc. With more people cooking at home during covid, I recognized the need for quality pantry staples in every home — most of all quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet.  Currently, there is no way for the average consumer to understand one bottle from the next when staring at a packed grocery store shelf.  

With Susan Julia — Olive Oil, Etc. I am providing consumers and industry professionals the opportunity to learn more about true artisan quality EVOO through private tasting experiences as well as educational tasting events in both hospitality and retail. I am so thankful for this opportunity. I’m truly living my passion.

Follow Susan Julia — Olive Oil, Etc. on Instagram.

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