2017 Fancy Food Show Review

I spent three days wandering around the winter fancy food show in San Francisco this week! Saw lots of the same old same old (popcorn, chocolate, olive oil, cheese, Italian imports) but like every show, there are always a few unique items and up and coming trends that we hope will make it and hit mainstream!

Wellness Tonics
Tonics are beverages or syrups that are based on traditional or ancient methods for natural self healing. Some interesting products at the show included Apple Cider Vinegar Drinks like Sonoma Syrup, Tuber Tonics and African Bronz Honey Tonic.

DIY Kits 

Why buy something ready to eat when you can sort of put it together yourself. Lots of DIY (do it yourself) kits at the show for both adults and kids! My favorite was HummisStir– a package containing three shelf stable sterilized packs of chic peas, tahini and dry seasoning- that you blend together with a cute wooden spoon. The hummus wasn’t bad– although it needed some fresh lemon juice in there.  Home Cranked Ice Cream Mix eliminates one having to combine their own sugar, cream and milk–the base is right in the box so you can be like professional and dump the mixture into your ice cream machine– press go- and impress everyone with your secret non-blending skills! In the health and wellness DIY space, there are now companies that will sell you their special Kefir starter cultures to make your own Kefir at home! You can also go to Berkeley and just ask around town and someone will probably “gift” you some of theirs but its nice to know there is a reliable clean workable version on the market.  And of course Bagels–the company Everything Bagel and Cream Cheese DIY instructs you on how to make both the bagel and the cream cheese.

An Apple Every Day

Apples are showing up more than ever in products from syrups to freeze dried snacks to BBQ sauce. Some examples I saw at Fancy Food show included Gia Russa Buttered Apple Barbecue Sauce  and Apple Butter Syrup from Blackberry Patch. Stonewall kitchen was also demo’ing their Apple Cider Syrup.

Better For You Snacks-Naturally

Lots of snacks out there made from ingredients that are “healthy” for you. The definition of healthy of course varies, but according to those who are selling it– includes Chickpeas (Chick Bean Crisps), ProTato Crisps, which combines potato with rice protein to make a protein rich crunchy snack. Ticky Rice Chips which  they make by steaming thai sticky rice, soaking it in watermelon (??!!) and then crisping it up so it tastes like the brown bottom of the pan rice that is scraped up. They have 30% less fat than regular potato chips. Also saw Chia Cassava Chips. These products combine both our desire to crunch and snack, but provide us with fiber and protein from the ingredients used.

Decadence Never Dies 

The Fancy Food Show would not be what it is without the usual slew of olive oil, chocolate, cheese and other rich not necessarily good for you but tastes great selection! Chocolate products will always be there for us- and this year was no exception. Some unique items included Torn Ranch Chocolate Covered Banana Chips– that are truly “taste inspired”. The chocolate pate from Guthries— AKA “Sin In A Tin”.

The Products We Still Need To Get Used To

Crickets are hot now but we still need to get used to eating bugs as a protein source. Don Bugito has been around for a few years now– helping to increase awareness about bugs– as a protein source.

The Weirdest Product I saw at the 2017 Fancy Food Show

The strangest thing I saw was a beverage called Eggurt– made from fermented egg white. I don’t quite understand the history of this idea (it is not something that is done in other countries, nor is it something that existed in the past) but it tasted good– like a yogurt drink.  I did find the masters thesis of a food scientist who developed a very similar beverage in 1978, I wonder if there is a connection!










In early 2012 the International Maple Syrup institute (IMSI) put out a  recommendation to unify the maple syrup grades among maple syrup producing jurisdictions. Currently the USDA, CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency), and the Agencies of Agricultures have adopted rules based on the recommendation of IMSI. Most States and Provinces are transitioning to the new system over the course of 2015. The USDA standards are available online and have been official since March 2, 2015.

Just so everyone is clear, what is maple syrup? It is the liquid food derived by concentrating and heat-treating sap from the maple tree (Acer) as defined in the U.S. FDA standard of Identity for Maple Syrup (they used to spell it Sirup but now it has been officially changed to Sirup!) The solids content of the finished maple syrup shall not be less than 66 percent by weight (Brix) (21 CFR 168.140)

All maple syrup is now Grade A. U.S. Grade A is the quality of maple syrup that has not more than 69.9% solids (brix) content by weight, has a good uniform color, has good flavor and odor, and intensity of flavor (maple taste) normally associated with the color class. It is free from off flavors and odors considered as damage and is free from cloudiness, turbidity, sediment and it is clean. No deviants for damage shall be allowed in Grade A. (USDA Section 52.5962)

Grade A is now divided into several categories. There is a Grade A- Light Amber that has a buttery vanilla taste, light flavor and is often perceived as sweeter due to lack of the strong maple flavor profile. Grade A Amber should be used on ice cream, crepes or other foods that you may not want the maple flavor to overpower but just be subtly there. Then there is Grade A-Amber Rich, which has a solid base maple flavor- this is good for all around usage on pancakes, French toast and in beverages. Next in line is the Grade A-Dark Robust which has stronger maple, caramel and brown sugar flavor notes. This is a good grade to use for oatmeal, formulated into beer, brownies and cakes.

There is no longer really a Grade B- it is referred to as “Processing Grade” now. Processing grade means (by USDA definition) that it does not meet Grade A requirements but meets the requirements of Processing Grade for use in the manufacturing of other products. Maple Syrup for processing can be packed in containers of 5 gallons or 20 liters or larger. It cannot be packed into consumer size containers for retail sale. Obviously if someone were buying a 5 gallon container that is ok since it would typically be used in a processing scenario at that minimum volume. The Processing Grade can’t have more than 68.9% brix, it can contain some off flavors and odors and it can have a very strong taste.

What does this mean for you (the consumer and the artisan food maker?) Don’t disregard commercial or processing grade maple syrup just because you may perceive it as a lower value. A Grade A Light Amber may not work well at all in your maple syrup oatmeal cookies- the flavor may not come through. Alternatively don’t use the commercial grade if you have a delicate tasting product that you plan to add it on to.

Talk to your maple syrup provider/manufacturer and set up a tasting so you can see for yourself how the different versions of “A” will taste and which is the best version for the best price to incorporate into your food product.

For more information on Maple Syrup- here are a few links


Yea– this product looks like a whole lotta fun!

I just got back from Expo West in Anaheim, CA– and I feel like it may be time for a Jerry McGuire style manifesto! Yes, me—the food scientist who is probably more part of the problem than part of the solution – was rather shocked at the ridiculous abundance of processed food products on demo at the Natural Products Expo. Even that sentence sounds wrong– natural food show and processed foods– Processed is what the Natural Foodies want to avoid-but yet they cannot escape it!  I feel like the packaged food world has gone completely over the edge and its no longer about the food at all- its just about putting out something… anything… on the shelf that meets a marketing claim. I feel like I may even want to become good friends with Michael Pollen now—or start my own organic farm—or do something. Anything to balance out the universe again.

From what I understand, back in the day the Natural Product Expo was way smaller—with lots of hippies trying to make a difference—I don’t know because I never went to the show back in the 80’s- I can only talk about Expo now—and what it has become!

Show Size

The show was HUGE this year. Not only did they have the main floor and the basement, but there was also the attic area and a whole other section in the Hilton Hotel next door. It was like every food company was multiplying at an exponential rate and every time one turned around there were 100 more companies born right there on the expo floor. I am just so relieved that maybe at best only 5% of the products at the show will make it to the market and the rest will end up in a dollar store somewhere. Who has time to make that many choices at Whole Foods?


Hardly anything tasted good at this show. But apparently taste has nothing to do with natural products. As long as it hits a claim and eliminates the bad “sounding” ingredient of the day—then it’s ok to spend millions to manufacture it and serve it to the masses. Why eat potato chips made with salt and oil when you can have a NON GMO VERIFIED processed gluten free ancient grain powder based kale chip infused with vitamins, fiber and protein made in a local sustainable factory in the Midwest? AND if you are lucky it will go down easily with a shot of nasty HPP’d (high pressure processed) beet, coconut oil and carrot puree? Hey, its Paleo right? It HAS to be good for us. Taste means nothing. I tasted so many bitter, sour and over processed food products at this show—yes, processed— imagine that, processed foods at a natural food product expo.  You know how there are all those articles about how the BIG EVIL corporate food industry is manipulating food ingredients and tricking our minds into thinking it taste good— well, yes- they are– and Oreo’s DO taste good. But making a really BAD tasting version of an Oreo with apple fiber and sugar alcohol is NOT going to convert the masses.

Fake Claims

Candy that will make you smart because it’s infused with Vitamin B? Labels with portion sizes that are double what they should be so you can supposedly be getting in “good” amounts of protein and fiber? Then the opposite- candy portions being cut in half and claiming “low sugar”— since when do soccer moms get to decide what is and is not an appropriate portion size? Oh right, they all have degrees in nutrition now- children nutrition, adult nutrition and athletic nutrition.

All Natural?

There is nothing natural about dehydrating vegetables and then mixing them up with starch and running them through an extruder and turning it into a cardboard chip. Even if the starch is “unmodified” (could a caveman make unmodified food starch with two sticks and fire?) Adding  flavors and colors even if those flavors and colors are natural themselves… is not really natural. Yes, the FDA may sort of say it is (although they don’t have a real definition of natural either) but lets all be honest here– buying freeze dried fruit from an industrial supplier and repackaging it into a foil bag is just not something that naturally happens in life.

The Stories

I can’t take any more stories. The mom that just want better foods for her nutritionally deprived children and the only way to make that happen was to create the food herself gosh darn it! The ego-maniac super rich former executive who MUST create his/her own line of sauces with their face all over it, the hipster who spent the last 3 years farming in Africa and discovered the latest super fruit and has now turned it into a line of energy bars— The body builder who “created” an exact blend of sugar alcohols that saved his life– and cured several diseases-The doctor who wants to promote her own line of allergen-friendly products– I think pretty much all 2500 companies exhibiting at Expo West fall under one of those story categories. You know what my favorite story is? The one about the guy who came up with the idea that HEAT killed bacteria– yes, my hero– Louis Pasteur.

Clean Label

In an effort to keep ingredient statements clean (and lets all agree here- clean has nothing to do with the whether the ingredient is good for you or not, it only means that everyone and their grandmother can understand the legal definition) we have compromised on flavor. Companies would rather shove in massive amounts of spinach powder to hit a calcium claim then to use a soluble calcium powder. End result—bitter tasting spinach chips. To make a label clean we are essentially heavily processing ingredients that people know—and manipulating them to be functional in the product. Don’t use 0.5% starch, starch is not “clean”- lets use 30% vegetable powder instead. Its “cleaner” and we can call it “carrot” on the label. Even though it’s not really a carrot anymore, no more than corn starch is “corn”. Sure it taste like crap now but Homer Simpson understands carrots and doesn’t understand starch or soluble corn fiber. DOH!!!!!


Everyone has a different take on what sweetener should be used. The low carb people use stomach grinding sugar alcohols (provide the bulk, but not the calories!). Those that want to be “natural”, just use evaporated cane syrup (that’s sugar by the way in case you thought cane meant something besides sugar), those that don’t want any sugar (but are ok with carbs) can use maltodextrin and monk fruit. Monk fruit is not organic, so if you want a high intensity “natural” and organic sweetener—you use Stevia. Then there are those that pray to the food gods that somehow making something with all pea protein and artificial sweetener will taste like a Hostess cupcake and sell equally as well. It won’t taste like Hostess, because Hostess cupcakes are really good, I just ate some the other day. Hostess has corn syrup and sugar and wheat gluten similar ingredients seen in the supposedly much better products at Expo West.


Ever notice how the probiotic drinks all say the number of good bacteria at the time of bottling—right, that’s because most of them die off by the time you drink it. So congrats on paying a fortune for a vinegar-tasting beverage that may not have many good bugs in it. I am actually excited about the newest wave of vinegar drinks on the market– at least they are what they say they are, diluted vinegar (with some fruit juice added to make it palpable)– yum!

Maybe its because I am a food scientist that I am so disillusioned. Is all this my fault? Did I help create these products? I always keep an unbiased and open mind when it comes to these shows but the natural products food industry is on the brink of insanity now and I left the show hungry.

Lets End This on A Positive Note

Despite all that has been written, and despite almost everything tasting like packaging peanuts sprinkled with vegetable powder, Expo West is a big fun scientific experiment party. We have music and booth babes and young cool hipsters doling out nutrition advice with a bored superior look on their face- the show is super charged with energy and excitement and everyone is trying SO HARD to make their product healthy and shelf stable. The rules of shelf stability are fairly simple—you can dehydrate it, you can freeze it, you can cook the crap out of it, you can HPP it, you can throw in a bunch of acid and lower the pH to 4.1- you can retort it. Food Scientists invented short cuts and industrial ingredients to make the food taste good and the new wave of non food scientists (that would be the hipsters, soccer moms, former financial executives and body builders) are reversing all our hard work to make it appear healthier- even if no one can eat it.

I don’t think that everyone was in such bad shape 50 years ago when we were all eating  Mac & Cheese, Pop-tarts and condensed canned soups.  I think we were actually healthier and thinner back then– this was before fat and cholesterol became bad (and then became good again) – I think Expo West-the organization making millions and millions putting on this show– needs to stop instigating the creation of all these food products and start putting a cap on how many items can be allowed in. Instead of limiting the amount of items, they are just renting out more space. How about only allowing a max of 1000 exhibitors and they have to pass a Shark Tank like competition to be allowed in? Expo West should be a  privilege, not something that anyone with investment money can get in on.

*Will I get my press pass next year for saying all this??

Is there a solution to all this? Yes! No! I have no idea– sorry. If you have any ideas, please comment below.

So—do you still need help developing your next gluten free, low –carb, natural, free range, nonGMO verified, clean label, certified organic food product that lasts one year on the shelf and was made from sustainable people on sustainable farms? Give me a call! I can help you! I won’t judge, I promise!


Its that time of year again—time for me to hit the road- get on the trade show bus and attend as many trade shows as possible. For someone like me (a consultant) these shows can get expensive but I manage the cost by applying for a press pass, buying cheap flights on SouthWest and not staying at the Ritz!

If you are at any of these shows, just look for me on the expo floor or look for tweets coming from @culinologist tweeting about random food and ingredient items that I see.

I am a trade show junkie. I went to my first IFT show in 1991 and I have never missed a show! Since then I have added on RCA, NRA, WOF, NPE (East and West) and the Fancy Food Show! I want to share these shows with you so you can pick and choose which ones are right for you!

Natural Product Expo: This show is right around the corner, starting this Thursday (March 5 2015). I will be there! This show is unique in that it used to mostly retail natural products (food, drink, skincare, over the counter drugs) but now it is not only those things but there is a huge wing for ingredient suppliers. This makes sense since ingredient suppliers are more established, have more money and can funnel cash into this event making it even bigger grander than its ever been. It does however make the show confusing. Plan ahead what you want to see!

Attend if you: like to see new trends, want to know what is new and hot, work in a supermarket and need new items, looking for new and novel functional ingredients.

Exhibit if you: Are a new retail product maker, ingredient supplier.

Expo Floor Only: $60 to $500

Total Show Pass: $300 to $800

*Discounts for retailers, brokers and healthcare practitioners

Check here for all the cost options (scroll down and click on drop down boxes)

** Note there is an Expo West and an Expo East. The East is the smaller version on the east coast every year.

Research Chef Association: This is a smaller more intimate food show and this year it is taking place in New Orleans on March 24, 2015. This show brings together the food scientists, chefs and “Culinologists” that work for both food and ingredient manufacturers. Seminars are scientific and/or culinary or both. You can learn about food safety, labeling, R&D, new ingredients, trends and more. Great networking opportunities due to the small setting and opportunity to meet and chat with just about everyone. I never miss this show so look for me there!

Attend if you: are in the food industry working as a food scientist, chef or culinologist

Exhibit if you: If you want to sell your ingredients to these people. This show is more “ingredient focused” and you won’t see lots of finished retail products being shown unless those finished products are used in ingredients- does that make sense?

Registration Cost: $650-800 depending on when you register- check out cost breakdowns here, one day options available.

World of Flavors: April 22-24 2015- This is one of those shows that everyone wants to go but not everyone gets to go because it’s expensive (not just the show but the hotels and travel to the Napa Valley!) but if you are one of the lucky ones to get in- you are in for a treat. It takes place at the Culinary Institute of America, it is widely acknowledged as our country’s most influential professional forum on world cuisines, food cultures and flavor trends. They fly in guest chefs from all over the world and have other culinary experts and scientists teaching us everything there is to know about one particular type of cuisine. Mostly attended by Chefs, Research Chefs, menu developers- there are more and more food scientists attending every year as well. The CIA is small, so usually max # of attendees is 700.

Attend if you: Are a foodie, work in the food industry, are a chef, are a research chef, are a food scientist, want to learn about flavors, cuisines and rub elbows with famous chefs in a small setting. Really—you can spend an hour chatting with Morimoto and Rick Bayless at a show like this. They hang out with commoners like us!

Exhibit if you: This is a tricky one—the sponsors are all types and include ingredient flavor companies, companies that sell finished products to restaurants and restaurant chains, fruit and nut boards, commodity specialists (olive oil, canola oil). I would suggest attending one year before exhibiting to get a sense of the overall vibe.

Registration Fee: Ranges from $1000 to $2000 That’s why if your company sends you, thank them and be grateful!

National Restaurant Show: May 16-19, 2015 -This show is for the restaurants and maybe a tiny bit for those selling retail products but really more for the restaurants. I see this show as an opportunity for chefs (at bigger chain type places) to find suppliers who can sell them beef or tomato sauce in a pouch or other bulk produced items. I also see it as a way for ingredient companies wanting to sell to those bulk producers to wander around and find them (but don’t bug them too much, they really want to sell stuff themselves and not be sold too- but still, if you are a good networker you can do it!). There are also lots of equipment companies like ovens and sous vide machines, companies that sell plates and linens and those who sell disposable organic paper forks. I also see several rows of retail food companies and I am not quite sure how they fit into the NRA scene, maybe they can sell their finished products in bulk to the restaurants? There are tons of parties and after hour events (try to get an invite to the PLATE magazine party!) There is also this whole separate alcohol/booze room downstairs with a separate fee to get in. It’s a party in there- alcohol, mixed drinks, cocktail showdowns.

Attend If you: Want to find companies who can buy your ingredients, want to know what the latest culinary trends are, want to drink alcohol all day long in the separate booze section, live in Chicago and like to party with food industry professionals, are a chef who needs to select items for your new menu.

Exhibit if you: Are selling bulk produced finished food products to restaurant chains, are a fruit or nut commodity board, you sell big ovens and equipment for restaurants, you sell tablecloths. You are a small organic natural retailer.

Registration Cost: Only cost $50 to $160 (higher cost includes the alcohol section downstairs) Check out costs here

Institute Of Food Technnologists: July 11-14 2015 -The biggest show on earth for food scientists. I love this show because I feel “at home” with all my people, my old professors, my college friends, my ingredient suppliers, my clients—There are so few food scientists in the world and this is where we all hang out. Food scientists need to go to this show to keep up on ingredients and if you are a food entrepreneur you will want to go so you can learn how we get our xanthan gum (we don’t buy it from the supermarket!) – This is not a show that sells finished retail products, this is a ingredient supplier show!

Attend if you: are a food scientist or working in the development of mass produced shelf stable ad/or frozen food products and packaged goods. Check out this LINK , IFT’s reasons why you should attend!

Exhibit if you: Sell your ingredients to food scientists/developers.

Registration: The show rates vary—if you are student its cheap, if you are not, its expensive. Rates are here – if you want to JUST go to the Expo portion and not go to the scientific educational functions, you can email Brian Sethness bsethness@sethness.com for a free floor pass (it’s a industry secret that suppliers at IFT can give out as many free floor passes as they want—after all, the suppliers need buyers on the floor)

Fancy Food Show: June 28-30 2015 This show happens in both San Francisco and NYC, the NYC one is bigger but they are both pretty huge. On the main floor you usually find international importers, lots of cheese, chocolate and established food companies. On the ends and in separate areas you find new retail food products. If you are looking for trends, new ideas or like to eat gourmet foods for three days– check out this show. It only cost about $45 to attend. Exhibit if you want to sell your gourmet food products!

Attend if You: like gourmet food, like to eat, want to see whats new and hot, are a food writer, own a chain of supermarkets, own a single supermarket.

Exhibit if you: Sell gourmet artisan food products.

Registration: $45 bucks  (more if you register late, so do it early!)

With all these shows I suggest planning out what you want to see ahead of time. Go to the website and find the vendors (by company name or by food type) ahead of time and note their booth. Try to get the ones you want/need to see out of the way first and then leave some time for aimless wandering around. Don’t forget to hit the part of the show with all the brand new to the scene companies (they are usually pushed into a basement or a dark room so you may have to check the floor plan to find them). I find the new company section to be the most interesting because.. well… I kind of already know about Jelly Belly and Walker Shortbread but I don’t know about the latest Cave Man Kombucha drink fortified with iron.

If you want to exhibit- check in with Coach Deb—a consultant who specializes in helping companies exhibit efficiently. She even as a book on it!!


Happy New Year!

To all those who are receiving this newsletter— I want to start off by saying thank you for signing up! I also may have added you to this list if you have downloaded my book or worked with me in the past.

About a year ago I asked potential future readers of this newsletter or blog what they would like to read about– what food science topics they would like to hear more on! I want to continue this dialogue and ask that everyone either email me directly (rachel@theintrepidculinologist.com) or post a comment on this blogs link about what you would like to hear more about.

I have been writing blogs for years and posting them either on this site or on other similar industry websites- but I sometimes run out of ideas so am looking forward to you sending over your requests-even if its just a simple question, knowing me and my obsession with this topic– a essay can be written on any question presented to me!

Looking forward to hearing your questions and topic requests for 2015!



PS- The Fancy Food Show is coming up – San Francisco next week– are you going??


Putting it all on the table- Food Fete Goods!

Putting it all on the table- Food Fete Goods!

I should be ashamed of myself- for years I too believed that maraschino cherries had formaldehyde in them- the stuff they put in dead people- someone told me this when I was like 8- and now here I am… years and many food science degrees later- still believing that this is the case. Crazy! Turns out that years ago- a writer for a national news magazine confused formaldehyde with benzaldehyde- a flavor that is extracted from cherries, walnuts and almond pits. Well, Cherry Man Farm To Market Maraschinos put a stop to all that nonsense— not only are they NOT made with Formaldehyde- but they don’t even have any artificial colors or flavors in them. It’s a whole new world of Maraschinos out there!


All Natural- No Artificial anything and no formaldehyde!

Its been a few years since I attended Food Fete- the special fancy event that happens AFTER the fancy food show and is exclusive for companies that want more product exposure and want to mingle with elite members of the esteemed press. I was AMAZED at how BIG this event has become! There must have been 60+ companies there! Most brand new companies that I had never heard of- and a few established  companies that were launching their latest flavor/product concept. For example, Pepperidge Farms was demo’ing their Goldfish Mac & Cheese products.


And here I thought Kraft and Annie’s had that market covered— enter Pepperidge Farm! They also had some cool puffy spicy goldfish crackers too! Lucky for you I am posting a picture because I can’t find it on their website!!! See, Food Fete Works!


Puffy and spicy– and flavorful!

Entering into the show, they were serving Ole Smokey Moonshine cocktails- I passed on that because I don’t do the booze (read here why) – but great packaging right!?


Moonshine – glass jars

I always though Kohler only made kitchen sinks and faucets- but now they make chocolate. I was more impressed with their press kit though, it was a fancy key USB in a box- I will cherish that key thing forever.


the coolest of all media kits- a USB that looks like a key– in a box

The sneaky chef is sneaking vegetables into your marinara sauce and into the pasta- Now, while I don’t totally understand why they have to be SNUCK in –why can’t kids just be OK with it- at least they are there- and being eaten and that’s all that matters. But here is the part I am not clear on- they have a new veggie pasta on the market but I can’t find any online information—as a food scientist, I want to know how they got the veggies into the pasta. Stay tuned!!!


Jama Cocoa is a start up company run by Jamasen Rodriguez and five other undergrads- the company combines modern, urban art world with the realm of delicious chocolate confections. They achieve this by partnering with both upcoming and established artists and featuring their artwork on their chocolate boxes. I think they should feature the artwork by Zariart.com who designed the cover of my new book!  The Food Business Tool Kit For Entrepreneurs (mini plug for my book here!)

my awesome book cover- of my great new book!

I also really liked the Jcoco Chocolate from Seattle– more cool packaging (beautiful women featured on the labels) and cool owners.

sexy women on the package!

sexy women on the package!

They promised to attend my RCA chocolate event in a few weeks in San Francisco-being held at Charles Chocolates with a microbiologist speaking about food safety and confections.

I think Lamb is like this forgotten meat in the U.S. – we should all eat more of it and if you visit the lean on Lamb website, they have tons of great recipes!


eat more lamb!

I have to give a shout out to all California organizations (since I LIVE in California)  because they are just trying to support the farmers!  – the Almond Board of California , the California Milk Advisory BoardCalifornia Olive Ranch, and the California Olive Committee! I felt right at home at this years Food Fete!

Go All Things California!

Go All Things California!

I left the show with two heavy bags – took a taxi across town to meet my friend for dinner- he took a bunch of my chocolate bars, my veggie pasta (now I will NEVER know how they did it!) and some of my half popped popcorns!

sort of like corn nuts-- but not..

sort of like corn nuts– but not..

I got home and lay everything out on the table- wondering which items would come with me to Canada and then back to San Francisco.

Mom took the Lucini olive oil – so I don’t get to keep that– and more chocolate bars were removed from my bag when I was not looking– I did get to eat the Two Fold Foods Savory nuts for breakfast- trying to do the Paleo protein thing— so nuts work for that!

Nuts for breakfast

Nuts for breakfast

Mom snagged this shwag bag item

Mom snagged this bottle—









I want to thank Jeff Davis for putting on a great event- Great to be exposed to new products on the market- Glad to be able to share the information with my readers!  There were tons of other great products at the show but I can’t write about every single one— they are all listed HERE  because I thought everything was delicious!

Wow- I can’t believe I did it- but I wrote my first book! It’s called The Food Business Tool Kit For Entrepreneurs-How to Research, Develop and Produce a New Food Product. It took me exactly four months from start to finish, it cost me $6500 dollars to write, $4,842 of which was raised via Kickstarter from family, friends and anonymous interested parties who just felt like supporting me. It took me over 1000 hours to write- and now its done! And it can’t be unwritten- it can only be sold-so I hope.

But.. WHAT is this book really all about??

Buy me!

My book is not for the food scientist– it is written for the regular people – the ones who wake up one day from their non-food industry job (whatever non food people do.. finance, real estate, marketing, sales etc.) and realize that they have a dream of making the next healthy food product with a clean label and sustainable ingredients that is good for you, good for the environment and good for other countries and the world. They rush into their kitchen (after a trip to whole foods to buy gluten free grains and nut powders) and start cooking and mixing and showing their friends and putting together business plans and then….. the really complicated questions come in- the stuff that only the Food Scientists know about .. like:

  • How do I Get this Product Made?
  • How do I find a Manufacturer
  • Do I need to do a shelf life study?
  • What’s a HACCP plan?
  • Do I really need to get the FDA involved in all this?
  • Can I patent my product?
  • Can I tell people my product will save the world?
  • Can my product be shelf stable like a twinkie but without all the bad stuff that the twinkies have?

They start searching around online- and realize that – it is not so easy to find the answers to their questions- so they try to hire people, but they are not even sure whom to hire. Should they hire a nutritionist, a chemist, engineer?  A Chef?? Why is it so hard to figure out these answers they wonder..

The reason why- is because—believe it or not- start up companies are not easy to work with because they usually don’t have any money, they don’t understand anything about the food industry and they are just not worth the time needed by co packers, ingredient suppliers and manufacturers. They would much rather someone like Kraft or Nestle come knocking on their door – not Joe’s Jumpin’ Trail Mix from Sonoma County.

And so my book TEACHES the layperson what they need to know to get started. I provide links to the important trade shows- and I explain the basics of food safety and shelf stability and what is HACCP all about. The reader will leave with a solid understanding of the rules surrounding their product category so when they do leave a voicemail for that co-packer – they may even get a call back- if they look and sound like they know what they are doing.

So if you are food scientist reading this post- then this book is not for you-unless you were asleep during food microbiology or didn’t attend Better Processing Schoo-but I bet you know someone who has a food dream but none of the inside exclusive food science knowledge to make it happen. Tell them about my book!

Now you are thinking– how can I trust Rachel Zemser? AKA the Intrepid Culinologist? Does she really know her stuff?

Read my biography– I have 3 degrees, 18 years experience, many publications and lots of recommendations on Linked In. And if you think the book is not helpful- I will give you a refund.

How to Eat and Stay Thin at the FF Show

We all know that bacteria can infect our food and cause a food borne infection or food borne intoxication. The entire food industry is based on pH 4.6, the pH needed to prevent the outgrowth of the worst bacteria of all, Clostridium Botulium. But who, or what infects the bacteria? Bacteria are infected by a virus called “Bacteriophage” derived from the Greek word “phagein” which means “to eat”.  They are commonly referred to as just “phage”. Bacteriophage does its damage by attacking a bacteria cell, splitting it open, incorporating itself into the bacteria’s DNA and basically causing a series of biological functions that causes total cell destruction.

I first learned about phage in 1996 while working at a yogurt company somewhere in Texas.  Every so often we would hear about a “phage” problem.  The strains of lactobacillus and acidophilus had been infected and now the set cup yogurt had been sitting in the incubator for 9 hour and no fermentation was taking place. The plant had to be cleaned, and the contaminated product tossed out. Bacteriophage in yogurt was always a grave situation!

Which is why I found it rather interesting in an ironic way, that Fage my favorite brand of Greek yogurt has chosen to name their product after the very virus that is their industrial arc enemy. When I googled yogurt and Phage, the first site that came up was the website www.fageusa.com . Fage yogurt is super thick due to their unique straining process (explained  rather vaguely in step three on their website manufacturing description

I hope my FAGE yogurt is free of BACTERIOPHAGE!

), it takes 4 lbs of milk to make only 1 lb of Fage due to the straining out of all the liquids. Fage is only sold in its natural fermented milk state. It’s extremely tangy and has a deceptively full fat flavor due to their unique straining process.

There were lots of other Greek products at the fancy food show including Lykovouno Greek olive oil, an award winning olive oil that is owned by a local San Francisco dermatologist who told me that if I use it as a moisturizer it will slow down the aging process. There was also lots of PDO (protected designated of Origin) feta cheese from Mevgal, the third largest Greek dairy company that regularly exports to the U.S. They make feta, manouri, goat cheese, kasseri, kefalograviera, graviera, kefalotyri and myzithra. I wrote about Greek food back in 2007 and am excited that it continues to steadily permeate the U.S. food market .

In a few weeks I will have a guest writer Artemis Kohas discuss Mastiha, the all natural antioxidant, anti-inflamitory, anti-bacterial Greek resin that only seeps from the evergreen bushes found in the southern part of the Greek island of Chios. It has thousands of culinary and medicinal uses. I have a few boxes in my pantry that I picked up during the World of Flavors conference 2008 and I am anxious to learn what I can do with it. I have been told that it is worth its weight in gold! Stay tuned!

True Lemon-So many uses!

True Lemon-So many uses!

The NY Fancy Food Show was PACKED this weekend. I had to push my way through the rows and aisles to get to the food-and had to fight a crowd of hungry attendees to get a sliver of the award winning American Artisan English cheddar cheese from Fiscalini.  All the usual players were in town, the gourmet popcorn, the beautiful chocolates, olive oil from every country, the foreign pavilions and all the cutsey mom and pop companies making various culinary kits. There were chefs, food scientists, culinologists , and of course the usual slew of non food industry people that managed to trick NASFT into letting them register, even though they have nothing to do with the biz! I saw amazing products this year at the

As a food scientist I was especially interested in companies that have caught on to the fact that one can successfully sell industrial ingredients directly to consumers –if marketed correctly. For example, I tried this product called True Lemon that is basically cold pressed crystallized citrus packed into tiny 0.8 gram packs (also sold in bulk 80 gram jars) with a little bit of citric acid, bulking agent dextrose and citrus oils packed in. WOW-Its totally natural, has no calories, no sodium, and comes in lime, orange and lemon. Finally all you food scientists out there can stop raiding the lab supply cabinet for citric acid, citrus oleoresins and dehydrated lemon powder-true lemon has created a bare bones rather basic “flavor” that you can buy.  Nielson Massey  is another company that has caught on, making their industrial vanilla powder available to the retail market in 2.5 oz jars. Vanilla powder is no big deal to food scientists and manufacturers who see it as a way to save money (not shipping water)  and maintain product color (liquid vanilla is dark brown can affect final color of a product) but for a non industry home cook-it’s a fun and novel concept. 

Vanilla in Powder Form-Not just for industry anymore!

Vanilla in Powder Form-Not just for industry anymore!

An added benefit to these ‘industrial ingredients gone retail” is it brings the retail buyer closer to our world, our secret world that normally scares or confuses them is now becoming a bit clearer with the introduction of these ingredients into the retail marketplace.  ANYONE can be a food scientist now with their own dehydrated flavors and citric acid on hand! Maybe now when my non food industry friends start asking me what “oleoresins” are or trying to understand what all those scary ingredients like maltodextrin and citric acid are-I can use basic products like True lemon and vanilla powder to educate them on these matters!

Stay tuned for more Fancy food show coverage including a list of American (who needs cheese from France and Italy when we have great stuff right here at home-in California, Upstate New York and Vermont-lets lower our carbon footprint and support our local farms.. let’s all do our part!) artisanal cheese, natural raw honey (don’t feed to infants ever!) and a few mentions of Serbian jam products that are made with fruits grown in the mountainous regions of Serbia and cooked on wood burning stoves.

IMG_5633The Fancy food Show is in town. Not my town, but my other favorite town-NYC!  Back in January I checked out the San Francisco show and had so much fun I figured I may as well fly out east and attend the summer Fancy Food show in NY too! This time I decided to pay close attention to the trends and see if I could find examples of what I already determined last January were going to be the trends of 2009.

Last January I did lots of reading and charting to figure out which items would be coming down the pike full force in 2009. Some of the predicted trends included organic, natural, allergen free, economic products that have a high value to cost ratio, artisan foods, locally grown and free range. I spent all day last Sunday running around the trade show floor in shoes that became very uncomfortable very quickly to see if I could find food products to support my prediction claims.

I was excited to find all kinds of interesting and unique products that fit the trends and will be spending the next few days interviewing chefs, developers and company founders on what lead them to create their trend-friendly products. Stay tuned and I will let you know who is on the right path this year and why, and will be making money selling their product even in these troubled economic times!

But for now I want to leave you with one product that created fireworks in my mouth.. literally! A chocolate company called CHUAO passed out samples of a dark chocolate with chipotle, salt and “popping candy” (pop rocks!). The popping candy was not big and invasive, but tiny little pieces that tingle when you eat it! How very unique -unless you have seen it before, which I have..  back in 2006 and the CIA Spain World of Flavors Conference. During that conference, I experienced Oriol Balaguer ‘s  “Mascleta” collection and fell in love with the smooth hazelnut, praline, mandarin, caramel flavor that tingled while dissolving (if you can be patient enough to let it dissolve!) in your mouth. I was never able to find Mascleta in the U.S. so Chuao will have to be my substitute, which is ok, but I prefer the version created  Oriol, who was voted best Spanish pastry chef in 2008.

And what about that popping candy? It’s very technical and is also known as “gasified candy”. There is a patent that describes the process in great detail, here is the abstract;

Gasified candy which produces a more pronounced popping sensation is prepared by maintaining a sugar melt at a temperature of below about 280° F. during gasification. This product contains observable gas bubbles with a majority of the large bubbles having a diameter greater than about 225µ which is substantially larger than those in the gasified candy produced heretofore

Do you want to read more about it? Here is the Patent Link!