We’re introducing you to our passionate team of experts. Today’s featured deli crew member is Olive Oil Sommelier, Wendy Bauer
Wendy Bauer is a townie (local lingo for someone originally from Ann Arbor) with an artistic bent—holding degrees in illustration from the Center for Creative Studies and scientific illustration and botany from the University of Michigan. She’s also well-rounded Zingernaut (our term for Zingerman’s employees), having worked at the Creamery, Roadhouse, and Cornman Farms before joining us at the Deli 8 years ago.
When Wendy’s not at the Deli, you’ll find her in the wood shop designing, building, and installing custom cabinetry and furniture. She loves farming, painting landscapes, and any activity that gets her outside. She’s also self-taught in small animal taxidermy.
One of her favorite parts about working at the Deli is being surrounded by, and constantly learning about, foods that have been thoughtfully grown, harvested, and produced into some of the most nuanced ingredients of truly delicious foods. It’s no surprise that ethos comes through when she designed her dream Deli sandwich: “It would be a seasonal sandwich, consisting of grilled Country Miche bread, grilled in olive oil, of course, and served open face with fresh arugula, thick slices of an Aunt Ruby’s heirloom tomato, fresh, weeping mozzarella slices, sprinkled heavily with grey sea salt, and finished with a drizzle of aggressive olive oil.”
Becoming an Olive Oil Sommelier
Just like a wine sommelier, an olive oil sommelier is trained to taste and identify defects and nuances and ultimately score olive oils based on positive attributes. As you might guess, that’s helpful when assisting guests looking for the perfect bottle of olive oil, but what you might not realize is that it can be valuable information for olive oil producers, too. Being able to identify a scent or taste defect, can help a producer identify a particular step in their growing, harvesting, or even production practices that may have contributed to the specific defect. That knowledge helps them to make better olive oil.
Wendy earned her Olive Oil Sommelier Certification through the Olive Oil Times Education Lab in September of 2019, in San Francisco, California. The course consisted of intensive learning, tasting, testing, and quizzing—and a day-long intensive written and tasting exam to cap it all off. The tasting component would happen every morning—when your taste buds are at their peak!—and it involved tasting lots (and lots) of defective and rancid oils to learn to identify nuances and defects.
Olive Oil at the Deli
So what makes the olive oil selection at Zingerman’s Deli so special? (Aside from having Wendy on staff.) Wendy believes the Deli is a destination for olive oils in large part because we know each producer. They all put their passion and genuine care into each year’s olive harvest, and their work is truly a labor of love. Every producer we work with uses sustainable and caring production methods, which ultimately leads to the remarkable and unique olive oils we stand behind. Additionally, we sample, taste, and agree on each olive oil that is sold on our shelf—each and every harvest season—so guests can expect and know each one is the best of the best.
“Olive oil is an incredibly exciting and alive agricultural product that once opened, should be slurped and gulped everyday, and with enthusiasm!”
Wendy loves to make extra virgin olive oil more approachable and enjoyable by simply having conversations with guests, helping them identify what they like about olive oils, and being able to share her enthusiasm and knowledge of all things olive oil. If you’d like to increase your olive oil knowledge, keep your eyes on our Events Calendar. Our virtual and in-person tastings are a great way to learn more about the products and producers we sell and support.
Feeling like your pantry could use some olive oil love? As Wendy says, “our truly amazing and unique assortment of the best olive oils from around the world” are waiting for you and she’s ready to help you pick one out.