Published in Tribune de Genève and in 24heures by Gilles Simond. Image: Vanessa Cardoso

Portrait. Olivia Grebler has presented her concept to the École Hôtelière de Genève. She has been invited by Harvard

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Born on 17 March 1981 in Barcelona

Five important dates

2001 She leaves Spain to study in the US. And she lands two Masters, one in Chemistry and another in Environmental Science.

2005 She comes to EPFL to study environmental engineering.

2013 She created her start-up, Biolia, focused on researching sustainable solutions for the food industry.

2014 First contact with the fast food restaurant chain Gilles Desplanches.

2015 Partnership with GastroVaud, first certified restaurant, La Pinte Vaudoise in Pully.

The search for balance. It is also perhaps how we can define the life choices, work and ambitions of Olivia Grebler. Balance between her two roots, Switzerland and Spain. Between her practicality as a business manager and her keen sensitivity. Between her awareness of the great issues regarding the planet and her search for local solutions. Her creativity and rationality of an accomplished scientist. Her approach to ecology and her taste for exotic fruit.

A simple, brilliant idea!

The young woman had an intuition, an idea that was both brilliant and simple. Knowing that the food sector, which is particularly energy-intensive, adds to global warming, she has devised a program that reduces the carbon footprint of restaurants while also allowing them to reduce their costs. “They have everything to gain, by making energy savings of 20 to 60%, by consuming less water, by producing less waste and by increasing their social responsibility.”

In total there are 150 to 200 actions that are easy to implement and carry out each day, which are featured in her program. “It’s not about changing everything, this has to remain feasible.” The concept, christened EcoCook, has won GastroVaud over. After successfully testing La Pinte Vaudoise in Pully, the café-restaurant where she runs a training program, the Association of café, restaurant and hotel owners in Vaud is recommending the program to its 1600 members.

A family tradition

Ha, ha! That’s cooking, that counts in Olivia Grebler’s life. Do not be fooled by the slim figure of this sylph-like blonde girl. Even so, plagued by a skin disorder, she is very focused on a healthy diet and lifestyle, and avoids dairy products and gluten. “Cooking is a family tradition. My maternal ancestors had a restaurant in Barcelona. They say that Picasso used to go there. At home, above all, we had a passion for food.”

“Later on, we appreciated the chance of having had a complete midday and evening menu at home”

As a small girl, Olivia, the youngest with two older brothers aged 5 and 7, used to get bored playing on her own. She preferred to hang about the kitchen and watch her mother preparing good, small dishes. “Everything was very healthy. Later we realized and valued the chance of having had a full meal at midday and in the evening. I see us at the table. Nobody had a problem about finishing the spinach soup. My favorite dish was rice (“a la cubana” as they say in Spain), with fried eggs, sausages, a fried banana and home-made tomato sauce, prepared by my mother or grandmother. Wow!!” It was so delicious that talking about her mother’s specialties literally brings tears to Olivia Grebler’s pretty, brown eyes. Madeleine de Proust? It’s just a way of speaking. “When I was about 11 or 12, I used to make muffins nearly every day for my brothers, from sponge cake mixture. Besides, I am going to make some for two friends who are arriving from Boston!”

She has been tempted to follow a career in gastronomy. Not for long: “A girl friend left to study ecology in the US. I didn’t even know that they taught that! I was relieved, I said to myself, that’s it .” With her Bac from the French Lycée in Barcelona in her pocket, the youngest girl from a very international family, largely encouraged by her father, also takes the road to the US.

“A clash of extremes”

Chemistry will be her cuisine: she obtained a Master in this specialty and another one in Environmental Science. “In Boston, in five years, I have learned a great deal, both about American practicality, the meeting of all cultures or the clash of extremes. On the one hand, obesity, the option of everything that is not very healthy foodwise, and on the other hand, the appetite for a healthy life, a passion for smoothies, made from personalized fruit juices, fifteen years before they arrived in Europe.”

The young woman links up with environmental engineering at EPFL “to acquire skills in life cycles”. Some experience in multinationals leads her to finally focus on her professional project: certification, sustainable development, everything in the world of cooking. Her start-up, Biolia, came to life in 2013. “With this, we want to have a true impact on society, personal health and ecosystems.”

The bistros in Vaud are not the only ones interested in Olivia Grebler’s concept: after l’École Hôtelière de Genève, Harvard would also like her to go and give a presentation.