Saturday, April 10, 2004

Meet Shea Rosen

Meet Shea Rosen
Shea is a Food Technologist at Mezzetta. Best known for their peppers, olives, they have recently branched out into sauces with their Napa Valley Bistro line.

So what does a food technologist do?
Develop the company's new food products which includes conceptualizing the line, creating the formula or recipe, and successfully excecuting them in the manufacturing plant.

What is your background?
I graduated from the University of Missouri with a food science degree. After school I worked for Ore-ida in the San Franciso Bay Area and Los Angeles. Five years later, I changed jobs to work for Wolfgang Puck Food Co. Wolfgang Puck and his chefs influenced me greatly in regards to creative thinking and enhanced culinary knowledge. It was thrilling to be at Spago's twice a week developing frozen pizza's and pasta entrees for the retail product line. I also worked at Safeway for a number of years developing their private label brands.

What inspires you creatively?
Before I started the job at Mezzetta, I travelled extensively in Asia and Europe, and eating in those places influenced me greatly. Also living in California, fresh ingredients and fresh cuisine. I gain awareness of ingredients and their usage by eating out and travel. For example it's interesting to see how basil is used in Italian cooking and in Thai cooking. The basils vary slightly, but the affect the same herb has on each cuisine is very different and of course extremely complimentary.

What do you think about American eating habits, where are we heading? Are you concerned about obesity?
In regards to obesity, I think we suffer from emotional eating. In my opinion, we're confused as a society and food becomes a coping mechanism. Much of the advertising encourages people to over eat by tying into our culture of getting more for less. We stuff our faces. Also, why are we so obsessed with crazy diets? It shows that we don't really think for ourselves. Whatever the media is "spinning", we go along with. The fad diets must be really confusing to the consumer. Like the gimmicky low-carb diet, for example. A balanced diet and exercise is the long-term answer to a slimmer, more healthy body and happy mind. In other parts of the world smaller portions are the norm.

I hope tapas and small plates will continue to gain in popularity. For instance, I really enjoyed the tapas in Spain, I loved manchego cheese and quince jam, the octopus, sardines, and anchovies, and good olive oil. The olives in the Medierranean were phenomenal. Olive bars are popular and wide varieties of olives are now available even in supermarkets.

I think organic food is going to be more widespread too.

Do you use fresh ingredients in the sauces you develop for Mezzetta?
Yes. I've learned when using fresh ingredients, it doesn't take a lot to make things taste good. I try to use as many fresh ingredients as I can. In regards to our Napa Valley Bistro product line, all of the pasta sauces contain fresh garlic, onions, & herbs in addtion to Napa Valley Wine and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The Savory Siciliano Pasta Sauce for example is a unique recipe and it includes chicken stock, rosemary, chile peppers, fresh carrots and porcini mushrooms. It's savory and unique and has versatility to it. In addition to fresh basil, we use fresh parsley which contributes to the overall fresh flavor.

When you eat our Porcini & Portabella Mushroom Pasta Sauce, you can tell it's a wild mushroom sauce. We also use porcini and portabello mushrooms that are not canned. Canned mushrooms don't taste good and the texture is rubbery.

Can you tell us what other products to expect from Mezzetta?
The Kona Coast line will be coming out soon. It's a Hawaiian sauce line. Hawaiian products combine Asian, Hawaiian, and American styles. It's an exciting fun line of teriyaki and barbecue sauces, honey mustard and even pancake mix. Compared to other products, it will be very interesting. We developed a barbecue sauce that's tomato based and familar yet its got honey and ginger, there will be no mistaking that it's got ginger in it! In the Kona Coast line, we use ingredients like macadamia nuts, ginger, chilis and pineapple.