Brand Spotlight: Exau Olive Oil

Brava is highlighting various members of our community, including customers, our favorite brands, chefs, and influencers. Today, we are featuring Exau Olive Oil, an award-winning Italian olive oil company that produces some of the best extra virgin olive oil in the world.

  • Tell us about yourselves: We are Skyler and Giuseppe, award-winning olive oil producers and founders of EXAU Olive Oil. Since 2018 we have been educating consumers about extra virgin olive oil and sharing our products with customers across the U.S. Our olives are estate grown in a tiny coastal town in Calabria, south Italy. Each fall we travel from Austin, TX to Le Castella, Italy to harvest, press, bottle, and private import our oils to the U.S. where we sell direct to consumers. In 2019 we launched the XOOC (EXAU Olive Oil Club) to ensure our customers could have access to our products year round. Giuseppe is a native of Calabria, Italy and a 3rd generation olive oil producer. His family has been making oil from their family estate(s) for almost 100 years. Skyler is a 3rd generation Californian with a background in design and winemaking. EXAU is the marriage of the modern culinary needs of Americans and 80+ years of Calabrian tradition. We don’t follow industry trends, and if we’re being honest the trees run our business not us.

  • You got a Brava recently! How has your life changed since having a Brava? We love the Brava! We are huge foodies and home cooks but also run a business which consumes our entire day. We use the Brava almost everyday, especially since we consume a great deal of eggs, veggies, salmon, and potatoes. We love that it cooks the veggies so fast and we can check in on the cooking process from our phone while we continue to work. It’s saved us a lot of time. We still use our stove regularly for pasta but almost everything else goes in the Brava. We also love the fact that we can bake bread and cookies in it without heating up the entire house. We live in Austin, TX and it don’t need the extra heat.

  • What’s the story behind your olive oil brand, EXAU? Giuseppe came to the U.S. to visit me in 2015 and was not pleased with the olive oil selection at the grocery store. Even when we went to the high end markets, he only found herbaceous one note oils. After we got married in 2016 and decided to settle in the U.S., he called his mom and begged her to send him a 150L tank of oil. Calabria produces almost 1/3 of all of Italy’s oil so this request was not odd. Once our friends heard they asked if she could send them some too. That’s when Giuseppe got the idea to start an olive oil company. I didn’t get on board until after working in the wine industry in 2016 and making the decision I wanted to move away from the design industry.

    We knew if we wanted to start an olive oil brand we had to give it 100% so we moved to Giuseppe’s 1,400 person town in September 2017 in order to harvest, press, bottle, label, and export the oil to ourselves in the U.S. We were so over the disconnect between producers in Italy and consumers in the U.S. that we just decided to do everything ourselves. At first people didn’t get it and looking back we were pretty ballsy, but people want to be close to their food and it doesn’t get any closer than this. We take our social media followers on harvest tours, show them where we get our new olive trees, and do a step by step process at the press.

    A huge part of our brand is the unseen yet incredibly beautiful region of Calabria. It’s wild that the region hasn’t gotten more press or recognition because it grows so much of Italy’s food and there are so many American-Italians and famous Italians from the area (does Versace ring a bell?). We’ve gotten countless emails and DMs from America-Italians simply thanking us for showing a little piece of where their ancestors are from. EXAU shows people the ‘forgotten’ region of Italy and helps to rebuild the relationship between consumers and their food.
  • What should people look for when selecting an olive oil?
    • Dark Bottle – This is crucial. Light and heat both deteriorate olive oil so the bottle needs to be dark in order to protect the contents. Stainless steel bottles are also great. When storing your oil at home do not store it next to the stove. Put it in a dark cabinet but be careful not to forget about it.
    • Harvest date (not to be confused with the bottle date) – This is extremely important. The harvest date tells us exactly when the olives were picked which tells us the age of the oil. We want to buy oil that’s as fresh as possible. The bottle date is a plus, but not necessary. It’s normal to see an oil from the northern hemisphere harvested in October and bottled in December. The expiration date is a suggestion. While olive oil never technically expires it absolutely does go rancid after 2 years and does not taste or smell good.
    • Country of origin or lot number – We prefer to see just one country of origin on the label. The lot and/or estate should be listed and if it’s not then it should be easy to find on the brand’s social media or website. This is just about transparency of where the oil is from and giving credit to the producers and land owners.
    • Bonus: Acidity level/Peroxide level – Although not necessary, this shows the company took the time to lab test their oil to ensure it was extra virgin and wants to share this information with the public. It provides another layer of transparency. It will not always be possible for the producer to put the acidity level on the label but it’s often on their website and should be very easy to find.
  • What are the most common myths about olive oil? There are quite a few!
    • You can’t cook with olive oil – “This simply isn’t true! This myth is one of the most damaging to the industry. We cook in extra virgin olive oil every single day and Italians have been doing so for thousands of years. Giuseppe’s mom even fries in it over the fireplace . . . We believe extra virgin olive oil is the best and healthiest cooking oil and the fact that the average Italian consumes approximately 13L of it per year speaks volumes. . . . Baking or cooking with extra virgin olive oil in the Brava has never been an issue, even when broiling. Olive oil is a fat and fat is flavor (especially when scented with spices!). We need fat and flavor in every meal so it doesn’t make sense to shy away from the product”.
    • The oil has to be ‘first press’ and/or ‘cold pressed – These terms are so outdated! Olive oil is no longer pressed, it’s extracted using a centrifuge making these terms redundant at best and tacky at worst. True extra virgin olive oil can only be made from the first extraction and without the use of excessive heat. Terms like these are just marketing ploys. There are several organizations that outline the rules for extra virgin olive oil including the International Olive Council in Madrid (IOC). At EXAU we follow the IOC standards in addition to other standards we have developed over the years to ensure our oils are of the highest quality.
    • Olive oil lasts forever – It does not and it definitely does not get better with age. Please stop saving your olive oil for a special occasion, it’s going rancid and that’s the equivalent of pouring it down the drain. Once a bottle of olive oil is open it should be consumed within 30-40 days for peak flavor, after that it begins to flatten. Once a bottle is open for more than 6 months it’s rancid. Rancid oil can be used for frying, cooking, and baking. If you have a bottle that’s over 2 years old open it and smell it. It’s quite possible that it could be rancid but that does not mean it’s unsafe to consume (please check best by date). Very rancid oil can smell like salami, cheese, or even vinegar.
  • What’s your favorite thing to cook in the Brava so far? “This is hard to say! I love cooking broccoli, potatoes, and salmon. . . . I love cooking these foods because it’s so easy to get them crispy on the bottom/top and they come out perfect every time. Consistency in cooking is very important in our home. We are definitely creatures of habit. Giuseppe’s favorite food to cook in the Brava are eggs. They also come out perfect every single time! The whites are cooked but the yolk is still perfectly runny. He eats eggs and toast almost every morning, breaking Italian breakfast tradition”.

Skyler, Giuseppe, and Brava Chef Annie will appear on IGTV via Brava Home‘s Instagram account on Friday August, 14 2020 at 4pm PT. They will make Pizza in the Brava! They will share their expert Brava cooking tips, and will be doing a deep dive into olive oil education. Tune in and bring your questions!

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