It’s an honour for us to publish this interview with Fil Bucchino a man…Obsessed with Extravirgin Olive Oil and much more…
Who are you and what do you do FIl?
Along with being involved in music professionally, I spend much of my days advocating for and educating people about olive oil. I was born in Florence, Italy, and now live with my family in Toronto, Canada, where I have been for most of my adult life. I am a certified olive oil taster (which is similar to a sommelier in the wine industry), a contest judge and olive oil producer. I collaborate with chefs and restaurants on olive centric dishes and events, and consult with various chambers of commerce. Yearly, I travel back to Italy to produce, test and airship a limited amount of premium extra virgin olive oil. I do this with Abandoned Grove, a collective of olive oil producers and farmers who have worked to bring olive groves once abandoned back to life. This past year we have also been screening our (award-winning) documentary “Obsessed with Olive Oil” at film festivals throughout the world. The film focuses on the passion behind the people in olive oil, and we are looking to make it available to everyone this year.
Why olive oil?
The passion of people in the pursuit of something they love has always fascinated me. I’ve always focused on finding art in everything, whether in music, medicine, or fine foods. There is something immensely satisfying about introducing people to incredible olive oils, to have them taste the difference and to share in their excitement. The new generation of olive oil producers, tasters and aficionados are inspiring. A lucky moment that connected me to oil at a very early age was when we immigrated to Canada during a time when there was limited access to Italian products. My parents, both Italian doctors, were passionate ambassadors of the Mediterranean diet in the early 90s and started to import olive oil from Tuscany every harvest. Then about ten years ago, I realized that not all olive oils are created equal, my mind was blown when I started tasting properly produced oils and realized that tradition and quality are two very different things. I became obsessed, I started participating in every harvest, travelling anywhere I could that had an olive tree or a mill, I wanted to know everything I could about the olive. I then enrolled to become a professional taster with ONAOO in Imperia, and later was enlisted in the Italian National Directory of technicians and experts of virgin and extra virgin olive oil.
Abandoned Grove project !!!
I became saddened and, at the same time, fascinated with the state of abandoned groves across Italy. I was saddened because the commercialized industry keeps driving the prices lower, although with beautiful labels and marketing, but with drastically a lower quality product. This has pushed many good people away from the boutique production of olive oil. This commercialization has and will inevitably continue to hurt communities. Still, I am fortunate and fascinated to have met people that saw the glass half full, and that no matter the difficulties, maintain an intimate connection to the land, and understand what these groves mean to the landscape, the heritage of the people, and that by restoring these groves to produce quality olive oil season after season is the most beautiful, healthy and delicious way to showcase their passion, love, personality and the unique terroir of a region.
You can’t buy these feelings. So Abandoned Grove’s goal is to bring these feelings, flavours and stories across the Atlantic to North America. Also, to show and educate the consumer that there is more to olive oil than they may realize. It is fresh produce, it is seasonal, and it is an art form. It is undoubtedly not a condiment that belongs buried and shelved next to vinegar and ketchup in a grocery store aisle, but rather a fresh and seasonal ingredient. In my years harvesting and importing, I also noticed that even the most respected producers are not showcased adequately in North America. The timing and effects of the Atlantic crossing by boat can be very damaging to an oil. So at Abandoned Grove, our oils do not leave the source until they undergo a very detailed and delicate process, they are then flown in, ensuring the most constant temperature and fastest arrival time. Like any quality, fresh produce should be. In Canada, we can’t just go to a producer and taste the purest possible oil; my goal is to bridge that gap. Abandoned Grove’s work also includes uniting chefs, producers, grove owners, consumers and aficionados in the mission to change the perception of what an authentic extra virgin olive oil is and to truly showcase the benefits of this gift. It’s a team effort!
Obsessed with Olive Oil – Documentary
This project is about love and the desire to tell a positive story on olive oil. My good friend and director, Ed Zych, became obsessed with the olive oil that I was bringing in each season. He became intrigued and understood that the difference between mass-produced oil and boutique pressings was paramount, so he asked me if he could document the harvest and the people around it.So in 2017, he followed me to Italy to document the harvest and interview many friends, producers and experts. The goal was not to show people all the negativity and fraud, but rather the passion and all the positivity behind great extra virgin olive oil. We were hoping to pick up the conversation where Tom Muller left it in Extra Virginity. We wanted to highlight the positives, its value, the art form, and how it should be considered fresh seasonal produce and ingredient, and how there is a whole world to it, just like cheese, wine, craft beer or even music!
How do you picture olive oil in the future
The oil of the future won’t be thought of as an invisible staple or merely a product to fry and cook with. But instead, as a healthy and flavourful ingredient that, when paired right, will bring out incredible flavours from your dishes, where we understand that olive oil is a fresh fruit juice. It will exist in a world where the consumer understands that just like wine, cheese, coffee, music, or even cars and smartphones, have tiers, levels and differences. For olive oil, just because it says “extra virgin” on the label does not mean that it is the same product across the board. A world where the consumer understands the product and refuses an oil that is defected, aged, spoiled, the same way we do with bruised fruits, stale bread, corked wine, rancid cold cuts or fish that has spoiled! When this happens, the restaurants and retailers will scrutinize what they purchase and serve and share pride in providing the artform to consumers. Once people appreciate how a good bottle of oil will elevate 15 to 20 of their meals, the same way that a good bottle of wine can enhance a meal, people will value quality oils and pay what it is worth! We are still far, but the movement has started, and I feel incredibly positive because once people taste good oil, it is impossible to go back. It is vital that farmers and producers can carry on their artform without being worried about having to abandon their groves for good.