uspca conference: the classes

When I was invited to and attended the USPCA Conference (US Personal Chef Association) in Long Beach last month, I took two classes. One was about Olive Oil and one was about Tamales.

Liquid Gold Rush Olive Oil Class - USPCA Conference

The Olive Oil class was first!

Probably the biggest thing I learn from this class is that sadly, most of the extra virgin olive oils on the market are not really extra virgin. It’s currently all “on the honor system” and there are no regulations in place to certify whether or not an olive oil is a true “extra virgin”. There are numerous health benefits to using extra virgin as well, if you find the real stuff.


Some of the benefits include lowering your risk of hearth disease, since extra virgin olive oil is a monounsaturated fatty acids which is considered one of the healthy fats and can help lower your cholesterol. There are also studies that show that it can benefit insulin levels and blood sugar level, helpful with type 2 diabetes. Researchers also now believe it can benefits cognitive function.  Also, with vitamins E, A, and K, in addition to iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, extra virgin olive oil is good for your eyes, skin, and bones, and boosts your immune system, too. For centuries its been used to soothe the skin, strengthen nails, aid digestion, and ease the effects of alcohol consumption.

We did an olive oil tasting during the class, sampling each of the olive oils before us. We were told smell it and then to take a little sip and flutter it through our teeth to get the rich flavor on our tongue before swallowing it down.

Olive Oil Samples - USPCA Conference

Each of the olive oils had a different aroma and pungency. As we progressed in the tasting I found the olive oils to be more bitter and pungent for my tastes, but all had a nice, smooth finish.

Olive Oil A had peppery, nutty, and butter notes to me and zero aftertaste. It turned out to be an Arbequina (Spanish varietal) olive oil with a lighter, more delicate taste. This ended up being my favorite of the bunch.

Olive Oil B was more intense and robust – it tasted a bit more bitter to me with butter and grassy notes. It felt thicker and more viscous. Again, quite strong and quite bitter on it’s own. This turned out to be Koroneik, a greek olive oil.

Olive Oil C was the most intense of the bunch, extremely robust and bitter and it made me cough. It was incredibly bold and spicy and I got a strong taste of pepper in the back of my throat. Our instructor said this was the olive oil she liked to used for making olive oil ice cream since the robust flavor can really shine through! This one turned out to be an anniversary blend of olive oils.

Olive Oil D was kind of a “Gotcha!” one that we tried last. It was an olive oil that had expired beyond it’s shelf life and was actually rancid. Not unsafe or anything, but definitely beyond it’s prime. This one smelled quite perfumy, which our instructor explained is one of the signs that an olive oil has gone rancid. In comparison to the other oils we just sampled, you could clearly smell and taste the difference as this one was quite bitter and had a horrible aftertaste that lingered on your tongue. In comparison, it was truly awful!


A few other fun facts that I learned: Good olive oils should be stores in darker bottles in a cool, dry spot. So called “Light Olive Oil” has zero health benefits – it’s not “light” because it’s less in calories and is actually refined and further processed! The smoking point of a true olive oil is 420 degrees and works fine for frying. You should use a bottle of olive oil within three months of opening it (no more buying in bulk!) And my favorite fact: There’s greater trafficking of fraudulent olive oil than cocaine since there is zero label enforcement.

The California Olive Oil Council does offer a certification process to show true bottles of olive oil but companies/makers must submit on their own. Sadly, I found no stores listed on their website that offered the certified bottles but there is a list of places to buy olive oil online if you want to get the real, certified stuff.

My second class was How to Make Tamales.

We made (or at least did the most of the steps) Green Corn Tamales and were taught by the chefs from El Cholo Cafe. Green corn tamales use fresh corn instead of corn flour. It is called green corn because the husks are still green!

El Cholo Chefs - USPCA Conference

[Chef Aleccio Leon, right]


Our tables were all prepped with knives, one corn on the cob, and the fixings we’d need for the tamales.


The first thing we did was remove the husks. We saved a few of the husks, which is what we would put our prepped corn mixture.


The corn was removed from the cob and a bit of corn meal sprinkled in.


Then you mixed these together.

The chefs did the real prep for the masa corn mixture since they couldn’t set up Kitchen Aid mixers for all of us. The corn kernels and corn meal are mixture together in a food processor and it gets watery on it’s own, like so:


Shortening and butter and mixed together until smooth and homogenous. Then sugar, half and half, and salt are added and then the above corn mixture.



This is the green corn masa mixture stuff! They had big bins of it for all of us so we could actually each make a few tamales.


You get a sheet of parchment paper on the bottom first. Then you overlap a couple of the husks and then plop the corn mixture in.


Then place a big old wedge of cheese. The chiles also go on top, but I forgot to take a photo of that.

Additional corn masa mixture is placed on top.


Then you fold over the edges, and bring the bottom up.


Then the parchment is folded over and it’s tied with string.


The tamales are steamed for 45 minutes and then you must leave them in their little packages for a little longer (outside of the steamer) so they have time to setup. Otherwise they’ll just fall apart on you.


They had a tray of tamales already prepared for us so we could sample them!

Green Corn tamales with chile and cheese - USPCA Conference

You can see the cheese and chile in the middle. The thing I noticed immediately is that these are a lot sweeter than their counterparts. The sweetness from the fresh corn really shines through here – I almost think they are too sweet and I might not even want to add the sugar that the recipe calls for. These tamales are also a lot moister and softer but they had a good flavor. They are almost like dessert tamales!

I found a very similar Green Corn Tamales recipe to the one that was taught if you want to try and make these yourself.

I had a wonderful time taking both of these classes and learning about olive oil and how to make tamales! Thanks to the USPCA Association for inviting me to take part and experience their conference!

You can read my first post about the food at the USPCA Conference here.

Disclaimer: I received complimentary admission to attend the USPCA Conference in Long Beach, CA. I was not further compensated for my post and all opinions stated here are my own.

6 thoughts on “uspca conference: the classes

  1. How fun! I really want to have a tamale making party one day – I just need someone who knows what they’re doing to show me how.

    Someone just told me they went to a winery in Napa that also makes their own olive oil and gives olive oil tastings. He said they serve the tastings in opaque cups because a lot of people judge olive oil by the appearance and it affects how they perceive the actual flavors.

    1. Hi Leanne – I’d also like to learn how to make the more traditional variety. Maybe I’ll feel like trying it myself some weekend. Homemade tamales are SO GOOD. I know the Temecula Olive Oil company does tastings at their shops but I have never been (but I have tried them at fairs and stuff). I don’t know if there are other places here in town that do the olive oil tastings, but I bet there are.

  2. I have actually tried an Arbequina flavored ice cream. That was a total mistake. It was at Salt & Straw, a frou frou ice cream place in Portland, OR. It was supposedly one of Oprah’s favorites. Man, WTF was she thinking! Ha ha! I didn’t like it in otherwords.

    As for the tamales – it’s neat to see the corn husk so green and fresh instead of all dried out. What a cool opportunity this was for you to attend this event!

    1. Hi CC – Yeah, it sounded kind of odd to me. The flavor was super strong, I couldn’t see it being an ice cream flavor! I had never heard of green tamales before so it was fun to try making them!

  3. Ohh I’ve been looking forward to reading more about your experience at this event. Cool! Seems like you learned a lot! I want to go to one of these things for fun. That seems like a lot of oil to be tasting. Wow, when we used to sample stuff back in culinary school, I can’t remember ever actually swallowing stuff like oils! I always tasted then spit out. Did you feel all oily inside afterwards?

    Love tamales. The “cornier” the better! Looks yum.

    1. Hi Miss Kim – I didn’t have the whole amount and they also gave us a little plate of greens, cheese and potato to dip into the oils. It didn’t seem like too much since the cups were pretty small. Luckily I did not feel oily inside haha! Though I would have rather just dipped and sampled instead of drinking straight oil! I love tamales, too! I thought we would learning how to make the “regular” kind but it was fun to see something new.

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