Jessica McCleary opened Mountain Town Olive Oil on Main Street in 2009. The goal was to not only sell extra virgin olive oil and Balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy, but to be a resource regarding how these liquids are used.
In 2012, the shop owner decided to get more proactive and host olive oil 101 courses. Last July, McCleary went one step further and began hosting Next Course food and wine pairing classes at 1 p.m. every Thursday.
The next class is titled “Asian Made Easy,” and students will observe and learn how to make caramelized pork belly and cucumber skewers, spicy chicken lettuce wraps, shrimp and vegetable summer rolls, chicken lemongrass banh mi bowls and sweet miso soy eggplant noodles.
So many times people tell me how much they love the oils and vinegars we have, but they don’t know how to use them…” Jessica McCleary, Mountain Town Olive Oil owner
Each class is taught by Deanna Fitchat, owner of the catering company DeeLicious Park City. The first half of the class is Fitchat preparing the dishes, McCleary said.
“Then, in a magical TV moment, she brings out the complete dish that she has already made,” McCleary said. “That way the class doesn’t have to sit and wait for a meatloaf to cook for an hour and a half.”
After Fitchat serves the food to the class, McCleary pairs each dish with wine.
“I am a novice wine lover, and I have purchased many books about wines from different regions and what foods to pair them with,” said McCleary, who is currently learning how to become a Northern Italian wine scholar from Wasatch Academy of Wines in Salt Lake City. “After the class is over, the students will get to take the recipes, cooking methods and a shopping list of ingredients home.”
McCleary enjoys planning the classes with Fitchat.
“Deanna will send me the recipes and I’ll go through them and do the research of the wines,” she said. “We teach three to five different recipes each week and we do that through different themes.”
Past Next Course themes include Paleo, Festive Finger Foods, Irish Feast, Champagne Brunch and After Ski Snacks.
In addition to the Next Course classes, McCleary has hosted private events for other local groups that include Image Reborn, a nonprofit that offers healing retreats for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, she said.
McCleary has also cohosted events with Park City Wine Club and Ritual Chocolate.
“The whole point is to show the class how to use the oils and vinegars that are found in the store,” McCleary said. “So many times people tell me how much they love the oils and vinegars we have, but they don’t know how to use them. That hurts my heart, because I want them to use these products.”
A series of events helped McCleary decided to create a cooking and wine pairing class.
She was able to get a lease on a 1,000-square-foot space located just behind her store.
“It originally belonged to a guy who used it as an office,” McCleary said. “And the only way to access it was through my store.”
The other event was a little unfortunate for a Park City visitor.
“He was in town for a 10-day ski vacation and had broken his collarbone like on the first or second day he was here,” McCleary said. “He had to get surgery, and was trying to find ways to spend the rest of his time in Park City.”
McCleary felt bad for the man and thought it would be nice to have a non-active event that would show off the town’s essence.
“So I thought teaching people to use the oils and vinegars in my store would do that,” she said.
McCleary is planning ways to offer more events that would cater to the local population.
“These mid-day classes appeal to Park City visitors, but I would like to get to the point where we can offer classes three to five time a week at different times,” she said. “I would like to offer a Saturday or a Tuesday night class, because I have heard from local residents who would like to come to a class, but they can’t because they are working.”
The most enjoyable aspect about the Next Course classes is interacting with the students.
“They are here for two hours, and they are engaging with me and with Deanna,” she said. “They also get to learn how to make these dishes. And I think there are a lot of people whose eyes have been opened to see how easy it is to cook a healthy and nutritious meal. When you’ve been in business for nine years, it’s nice to have something new to learn.”
McCleary started Mountain Town Olive Oil after working as a buyer for the Sundance Catalog.
“I actually started my career in retail as a buyer for Papyrus stationery and Williams Sonoma cookware before I began working at the catalog,” she said. “I like buying stuff.”
She merged the love of buying things with her passion for cooking and experimenting with recipes.
“The nutrition aspect is important to me,” she said. “Extra virgin olive oil is so great for your digestive, brain and heart health. It’s a healthier alternative. And I wanted to share this with the public.”