MOORHEAD — Ten minutes after you start talking to Peter Schultz, you sense he might just be firing on a few more cylinders than the rest of us.
The Moorhead man has an infectious enthusiasm for anything that has captured his attention and ignited his passions. And these days, that includes olive oil from Greece.
Before you read any further and wonder why anyone would feel so strongly about bottles of oil that can be found at any grocery store, you first must realize the olive oil of which he speaks is in a whole different class than most of what Americans are used to.
The Greeks have a saying, Schultz says: "Great olive oil isn't made, it's found."
Schultz first found the olive oil he calls "Liquid Gold" in 1997 while starting his PhD dissertation at the University of Athens. His dissertation adviser, Professor Olga Palagia, introduced him to her husband Eugene Ladopoulos, who was just starting to make olive oil on his land near Sparta.
"Here I was this grad school nerd, and he asked me if I could come to the warehouse and put labels on a few hundred bottles of extra-virgin olive oil," Schultz says.
It was the first batch of oil Ladopoulos was trying to sell in the United States. Schultz says they sat together, joked and worked while Ladopoulos told the Duluth, Minn., native about the land his family had been on for generations.
Seven years later, when it was time for Schultz to move back to the U.S., he agreed to take a couple of bottles of Ladopoulos' oil to share with friends. Why not? Everyone loves good things.
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And the oil, Mistra Estates Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, was an immediate hit. Schultz says many people who've tried it will not go back to the mass-produced brands. He says its rich, full flavor stems, in part, from the lower acidity and freshness.
"The Scoop with Tracy Briggs" recently put Schultz's oil to the test and learned more about olive oil basics. Watch the episode here.
Schultz is currently taking orders for his olive oil at peterschultzimporter.com. They sell for $139 a case. He says some customers will go in on a case together. Schultz says he and his wife Darcy went through four or five cases on their own last year because they use the oil not just for cooking but for skin care and as a health supplement.
On next week's episode of "The Scoop," we'll share more information on the health benefits of olive oil and give you a recipe for the perfect go-to salad.
Looking back on that first day as a "grad school nerd" working in the warehouse, Schultz says he would've never guessed where he'd be now. But after tasting just a few drops, he knew this was his path.
"It's unbelievable. It's changed my life," he says.