As a biochemistry grad student with a penchant for homebrewing, Chris White never thought his growing collection of yeast strains would amount to anything outside a hobby. But when White graduated with his PhD and was offered a lucrative job in the biotech field, one caveat kept him from accepting the offer — there were no side jobs allowed.
“I never had some big plan to start a company. But I liked all the fermentation stuff I was doing and didn’t want to let go of my yeasts,” says White, CEO and founder of White Labs. “I said no to the job, and from there White Labs kept going and going and getting bigger and bigger.”
Today, White Labs is a powerhouse in the fermentation industry. They provide professional breweries with liquid yeast, nutrient blends, educational classes, analytic testing and private consulting.
White Labs is celebrating a landmark 25th anniversary this year, despite a global pandemic that has shuttered breweries. They have released their own line of beer, created a new nutrient blend for hard seltzer brands, began a YouTube series and launched free how-to education classes for homebrewers. White Labs will host a year in review webcast on Dec. 9.
“We’ve had a lot of success and we’ve made a lot of mistakes, and we’ve tried to learn from those mistakes. But we’re a team. And we really got lucky that we hired people interested in fermentation that helped build this company,” White says. “Everyone really pulled together during COVID and did whatever was needed. It’s been a great experience because we had solutions and we had teamwork. And I think it’s taken 25 years to get to that team, that tribe.”
A yeast guru, White is a co-author of the book “Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation.” Below, check out our Q&A with White.
The Fermentation Association: You studied biochemistry at University of California, Davis, then got your PhD in biochemistry at University of California, San Diego. What made you decide to dive into yeasts?
CW: I was always interested in science since high school chemistry, and then in college was interested in how cells work, how DNA worked. It drove me to where I am today, really. Most people I went to school with at UC Davis, they were studying biochemistry to be a physician. But that’s not what I wanted to do, I was more interested in biotech and grad school.
Meanwhile, I was homebrewing. It was a great combination of things that happened. The science and homebrewing is what led me to put that together and make yeast for homebrewing, then yeast for craft brewing.
TFA: Is that what led you to start White Labs?
CW: It really was. I like beer. I was fascinated with how it could be made. It’s pretty simple to make beer — simple, but not easy. It’s difficult to make a great beer. But it’s fairly simple since it’s only four ingredients if you include the water. That’s what’s great about a lot of fermentation, the raw materials are all around you. They’re simple. Making it taste good is the hard part, that’s the art of it. I liked beer, I really got into homebrewing, then the people I was making homebrewed beer with started a store in San Diego, Home Brew Mart, in 1992. We became friends and that’s who I was homebrewing with every weekend. Then my friend from the store said “Hey, we need yeast,” and I started a little company on the side to make yeast. It wasn’t like I had some big plan to start a company, I thought I’d just make a little each week. And then other people asked and other people asked. By the time I got closer to finishing grade school, I just didn’t want to stop doing the yeast for brewing.
TFA: Now there are over 1,000 strains of yeast in the White Labs yeast bank. Tell me about it.
CW: We have a yeast bank that I spent a lot of time building in the beginning, more for my own brews, but obviously later on, it became more and more. The foundation of our company is our yeast strains and the way we store them. We’re collecting strains all the time. But what I did in the beginning was collect different strains from travel, from different yeast banks. We created our own private yeast bank at White Labs, but there are yeast banks around the world. Especially in Europe where brewing really began in an industrial way and where yeast was discovered and started to get collected. There’s a great yeast bank in Denmark, Germany, the UK. I spent a lot of time acquiring strains from those.
You get to know the yeast in a different way, the strains, what they do. Performance, conditions. But for beer especially, it’s really how they taste, which is so important. We only make those flavors through fermentation. We still continue to acquire strains. People send them to us, we bank private strains for companies, sometimes they buy them in a liquid form we make for them, sometimes we just store it for them. But usually, they’re banking it for us to make something with it.
TFA: Besides yeast, White Labs offer testing services as well.
CW: White Labs Analytical Lab is really separate in the fact that a lot of people that work in that lab don’t really have anything to do with the yeast. It’s just testing samples. They’re usually fermented beverages. Yes, there’s beer there, but that’s just a part of White Labs Analytical Lab. There’s the spirits that come for testing, kombucha, cider, mead, any kind of commercial business making a fermented beverage that needs some kind of testing. Sometimes it’s regulatory for export. Sometimes it’s just for their own data, like actual alcohol by volume instead of calculated, sometimes it’s microbiology or tracking down a problem or contamination. It’s all confidential, like everything at White Labs. But we get to work with a lot of cool companies, a lot of them may not get yeast from us, that’s really not a requirement. The yeast and testing run separate.
TFA: Have you seen kombucha brewing grow?
CW: Oh yeah. Originally, that’s how we got into analytical testing because people were asking for alcohol lab evaluations, which is so important in kombucha. We all know what happened there (Whole Foods pulled all kombucha bottles off shelves in 2010 after several brands tested at higher alcohol beverage levels then what was printed on the bottles). And it happened because it’s a biological process. You put that thing in a bottle and it’s going to keep fermenting. People had to really try to figure out what to do with that. So a lot of alcohol testing, and a lot of that is regulatory in kombucha.
But then we started making SCOBYs because a couple of our staff got really into it. Just like I started making yeast in my own home brewing, they started making SCOBY in White Labs for their own kombucha making. So we said “Let’s sell it.” And now we make a bunch of it.
TFA: That’s forward-thinking, expanding your offerings to all fermented drink products.
CW: Yeah and the different facilities allow us to do different things. We grow all the SCOBYs in North Carolina because it was a new facility at the time and had the space, San Diego is full.
TFA: White Labs released their own canned beer in July. Tell me about it.
CW: A lot of the things that came out of this year really were not new ideas, like canning. Someone gave a presentation at White Labs during one of our internal innovation summits that’s open to anyone in the staff about canning beer. But during this time of COVID, when we’re not focusing on growth, we were able to work on a lot of those projects and really build a better company. Once we gave up the idea that revenue is not going to go up right now, we worked on other things. And it’s been great. A lot of cool things have been coming out of our teamwork this year, and one of those was canning.
So we said let’s do that because we’re not selling beer in our tap room — we’ve got a tap room in San Diego for White Labs Brewing Company and a kitchen and tap in Asheville, it’s more of a full restaurant. We weren’t selling a lot of beer and we have a lot of beer, so why not can it? We have done three different beers now in cans. The IPA, a hazy IPA and the pilsner. And we’re going to do another lager and IPA next month. It’s been fun for the brewers to be able to brew it. I think it’s been a nice boost for everyone in the company, not even money wise, just to have another milestone: we put our beers in cans. It’s a nice billboard for the brewery. And they get to have fun with graphics, and how to tell our story, and really share what we’re doing in the tap rooms.
People are amazed that it’s the same beer, same exact batch but put into smaller fermenters and pitched with two different yeast strains. They say “Wow, you created different flavor beers? They taste different?” Yeah, because that’s fermentation. Fermentation makes these flavors and when people taste that it’s the same exact beer made with two different yeast strains, they get it in 30 seconds. “Oh that’s what a yeast does?” But you have to come to our tap room to experience that. And obviously during these times, you can’t come to the tap room. But canning is a way to share that with people outside the tap rooms.
TFA: Who buys more yeast from White Labs — commercial producers or homebrewers?
CW: Commercial because of volume. But we’re available for everything in homebrew. We try to mirror every test, every yeast strain, and make those available for home brewing because that’s our roots and I think it’s important. There’s been growth in home brewing during COVID. People at home with a hobby are buying yeast. That’s kind of nice, I like to see that.
TFA: Craft brewing has been hit so hard by pandemic. What have you seen your clients doing to survive?
CW: They’re getting creative. People had to figure out the to-go thing, first of all. That maybe involved buying software or creating a new website. Each company I talk to, regardless of what industry, they had to do something technology wise. Very few could close the bar door and were all set up to sell everything through the warehouse.
I think customers were also really good about supporting local businesses, wanting to help them. There’s been a lot of to-go. But it still doesn’t compare to all the beer they could sell, all the stuff that gets sold through bars. Even if one little meadery sells more to go, it doesn’t replicate all the tap room business that just disappears.
TFA: What do you think is the future of the fermented drink industry?
CW: It’s up to them. We pay attention so we can be there to help. But really these things come from creative people. New things have to come out. That keeps the industry growing. And I don’t know what those new things are, but we try and pay attention.
I think transparency and honesty is a hallmark of fermentation industries — whether craft breweries or wineries — and I hope that stays. That’s been a big part of the trust with consumers, and the fact that you can do these things at home too, so you know how it’s done. And with new techniques or things that get introduced, I think the industry needs to keep the transparency part of the business. Because fermentation being such an old, old method — a lot of people would like to replace fermentation with something else. They say “Let’s just mix these things together rather than do that weird fermentation.” But weird fermentation is what makes it so special.
More Americans are purchasing premium foods during the pandemic. Growth is fueled by Millennial consumers looking to have an “experience” from home, eating fancy food from their kitchen table during the pandemic rather than going out. Many fermented products are considered premium. According to market research firm IRi, five of the top 15 food categories with a “premiumization” effect are fermented products: spirits, beer/ale/cider, wine, coffee and yogurt.
Read more (IRI Worldwide)
Sourdough has become the darling of the pandemic pantry, as people experiment with a starter of microbes in their home kitchen. Scientists are just beginning to “discover that the microbes in a sourdough depend not just on the native microbial flora of the baker’s house and hands, but also on other factors like the choice of flour, the temperature of the kitchen, and when and how often the starter is fed,” according to an article in Scientific American. The magazine interviewed multiple microbiologists on the science behind a great sourdough loaf.
“When we study sourdough science, we learn that we know remarkably little for a technology that’s — what? — 12,000 years old,” says Anne Madden, a microbiologist at North Carolina State University.
Read more (Scientific American)
Would you drink a beer made from 3,000-year-old yeast?
Craft’s new frontier is ancient beer. Archaeologists and scientists are partnering with brewers to use the yeast from archaeological dig sites to make unique craft beer. An article in anthropology magazine Sapiens details Biratenu bar in Jerusalem taking a sip of beer made with yeast from a 3,000-year-old archaeological site. The article reads: “This feat demonstrated that the microorganisms driving fermentation had managed to reproduce and survive for thousands of years. It also settled any debate over the vessels’ purpose — confirming that the jugs with strainers once stored beer for the Philistines some three millennia ago.” Though wine is the historically recorded drink of choice for historians, “beer is telling us about everything from gender roles to agriculture,” says archaeologist Marie Hopwood.
Read more (Sapiens)
When Kirsten and Christopher Shockey moved onto their southern Oregon farmland 22 years ago, they envisioned starting a cidery. The century-old apple trees on the property produced perfect cider apples with an optimal mix of tannins and sugar. Cider ignited their love of fermentation.
“Really our fermentation journey started here on this place,” says Kirsten, author and fermentation educator (as well as a TFA Advisory Board member). She and her husband spoke at a recent TFA webinar Cider 2020: The State of the Art of Cidermaking, and talked about the state of the industry today.
This year has been full of surprises for cider producers. Sales had begun to flatten in 2019, as drinks like hard seltzer pulled from their market share. But, as the COVID-19 pandemic took root this spring, consumers started buying large amounts of cider, hoarding it along with toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Regional brands in particular have netted strong growth, some seeing gains of up to 30%. But this short-term growth spurt has created an odd, contradictory situation in the industry.
“We’ve got this real interesting dichotomy,” Christopher says. “Cider sales are up over 12%, but when you talk to orchards, farmers, cideries, especially small ones, you get a different picture. A lot of our friends in the cideries are cutting back their production, they’re not buying as many apples. Cideries are cutting back their apple orders.” The Shockeys theorize that these recent sales have been filled from existing inventories, while producers remain cautious about sales projections for 2021 and beyond.
What does this all mean for you as a cider producer, as well as for the future of the industry? The Shockeys shared their recommendations, observations and predictions.
- Pick a niche. What is your cider brand’s defining characteristic? Is it your background story? Where do you source your apples? Differentiate, Christopher advises.
- Focus on target demographic. Different age groups purchase alcohol differently. Millenials and Gen Z, for example, avoid wine. How can your cider cater to your target age group?
- Respond to consumer movement. People are leaving the city for the country, as more and more work remotely and are no longer tethered to an urban office location. This migration will affect distribution and sales patterns as consumers relocate around the country.
- Find unique marketing opportunities. Though many tap rooms are currently closed, cider clubs are finding success providing the latest flavors to customers 4-6 times a year. These are guaranteed sales, and help cideries sell out of kegs rather than bottles.
- Embrace unusual flavors. The Shockeys detailed the differences between traditional cider (apples only) and modern cider (using other fruits and botanicals). Christopher’s favorite is a persimmon cider, while Kirsten loves one made with manzanita yeast that produces a Christmas spice flavor. In 2020, pineapple-flavored ciders have sold particularly well.
- Understand there will be less business spending. Restaurants, hotels and conferences will not be reliable sources of income for cider makers until the coronavirus pandemic is over. Even then, it may take a while for these outlets to recover.
- Explore home delivery. Regional brands implementing home delivery are seeing big sales.
- Fight for fridge space. People are not getting bigger refrigerators and they’re not drinking on-premise during the pandemic, so cider makers must figure out how to compete for their share of consumer purchases.
Attending Cider 2020 was a range of individuals, from master cidermarkers to DIY home brewers. The Shockeys shared tips for hobbyists as well as professionals. They also offered further advice through a chapter that didn’t make it into their recently-published The Big Book of Cidermaking but is available here: www.storey.com/cider-business.
For anyone interested in purchasing The Big Book of Cidermaking, or in any of the Shockeys’ four titles on fermentation – a fifth, on vinegar, will be released next year – please visit the Shockey’s Amazon store.
Does chocolate have a place in a healthy diet or is it a guilty pleasure? A new study found chocolate is good for the heart in moderate amounts. The study, printed in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology, found eating chocolate more than once a week is associated with an 8% decrease in risk of coronary artery disease compared to those who eat chocolate less. Researchers note there are limitations — like the study didn’t account for type of chocolate or portion size. High-quality, low-sugar, dark chocolate, which is made with fermented cacao beans, has shown health benefits in other research.
Many major chocolate companies are trying to tout chocolate as a health food. Last year, chocolate producer Barry Callebaut petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to qualify the health claim that chocolate has heart benefits. The regulatory agency is still reviewing the request. This is the second time the Swiss company has petitioned the FDS to consider chocolate as a health food, but they were denied their first request in 2013.
Read more (Food Dive)
Today, Whole Foods Market global buyers and experts unveiled their top 10 anticipated food trends for 2021 in the retailer’s sixth annual trends predictions. Hard kombucha, upcycled foods, leveled-up breakfasts and jerky made from produce are among the food influences expected to take off in the next year.
Each year, a Trends Council of more than 50 Whole Foods Market team members, including local foragers, regional and global buyers and culinary experts, compile trend predictions based on decades of experience and expertise in product sourcing, studying consumer preferences and being on the frontlines with emerging and existing brands. Significantly influenced by the state of the food industry, the 2021 trends report reveals some of the early ways the food industry is adapting and innovating in response to COVID-19 for a post-pandemic food world.
“There have been radical shifts in consumer habits in 2020. For example, shoppers have found new passions for cooking, they’ve purchased more items related to health and wellness, and more are eating breakfast at home every day compared to pre-COVID,” said Sonya Gafsi Oblisk, Chief Marketing Officer at Whole Foods Market. “Food trends are a sign of the times, and our 2021 trends are no exception.”
While Whole Foods Market’s predictions for 2020, including regenerative agriculture, new varieties of flour and meat-plant blends, continue to evolve, the 2021 trends represent what’s new and next for the coming year and what consumers should expect to see on the food scene.
Whole Foods Market’s top 10 food trend predictions for 2021:
WELL-BEING IS SERVED
The lines are blurring between the supplement and grocery aisles, and that trend will accelerate in 2021. That means superfoods, probiotics, broths and sauerkrauts. Suppliers are incorporating functional ingredients like vitamin C, mushrooms and adaptogens to foster a calm headspace and support the immune system. For obvious reasons, people want this pronto.
Try the Trend: Cleveland Kraut: Roasted Garlic, Gnar Gnar; Beekeeper’s Naturals B.Powered Superfood Honey; Om Mushroom Superfood Mighty Mushroom Broth; Navitas Organics Superfood+ Adaptogen Blend Smoothie Booster; Health-Ade Kombucha PLUS: Belly Reset, Beauty, Energy; fresh exotic citrus fruits like Buddha’s Hand
EPIC BREAKFAST EVERY DAY
With more people working from home, the most important meal is getting the attention it deserves, not just on weekends, but every day. There’s a whole new lineup of innovative products tailored to people paying more attention to what they eat in the morning. Think pancakes on weekdays, sous vide egg bites and even “eggs” made from mung beans.
Try the Trend: 365 by Whole Foods Market Atlantic Salmon (coming 2021): Hot Smoked, Cold Smoked; Just Egg Folded plant-based “eggs”; Whole Foods Market Dutch-Style Pancake Bites; Meatless Farm: Meat Free Sausage Patties, Meat Free Breakfast Sausages; 365 by Whole Foods Market Organic Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix; Whole Foods Market Uncured Ham & Gruyère Cheese Egg Bites; Birch Benders Pancake Keto Cups: Chocolate Chip, Classic Maple; Breakfast Pizza – found at Whole Foods Market’s pizza venues in select regions
BASICS ON FIRE
With more time in the kitchen, home chefs are looking for hot, new takes on pantry staples. Pasta, sauces, spices — the basics will never be boring again. Get ready for reimagined classics like hearts of palm pasta, applewood-smoked salt and “meaty” vegan soup.
Try the Trend: Whole Foods Market Applewood Smoked Salt; Spicewalla Chai Masala spice; RightRice Risotto (coming 2021): Basil Pesto, Creamy Cracked Pepper; Acid League Living Vinegar: Meyer Lemon Honey, Strawberry Rose; Whole Foods Market Hearts of Palm Linguine; Otamot Sauce made with organic vegetables: Organic Essential, Spicy Organic; Upton’s Naturals Vegan Soup: Chick Tortilla, Italian Wedding
COFFEE BEYOND THE MUG
The love affair between humans and coffee burns way beyond a brewed pot of joe. That’s right, java is giving a jolt to all kinds of food. You can now get your coffee fix in the form of coffee-flavored bars and granolas, smoothie boosters and booze, even coffee yogurt for those looking to crank up that breakfast parfait.
Try the Trend: Jameson Cold Brew Irish Whiskey; Marge Granola Georgetown Coffee Nib Muesli (coming 2021); 365 by Whole Foods Market Coffee & Almond Protein Chewy Bites (coming late 2020); EVOLVED Coffee Keto Cups; Nancy’s Oatmilk Non-Dairy Yogurt – Cold Brew Coffee with Vanilla; Blender Bombs Coffee, Almond Butter & Cacao Smoothie Booster
BABY FOOD, ALL GROWN UP
Thanks to some inspired culinary innovation, parents have never had a wider or richer range of ingredients to choose from. We’re talking portable, on-the-go squeeze pouches full of rhubarb, rosemary, purple carrots and omega-3-rich flaxseeds. Little eaters, big flavors.
Try the Trend: 365 by Whole Foods Market new Organic Baby Food: Pear Strawberry Rhubarb, Apple Pumpkin Blueberry with Ground Chickpeas, Apple Butternut Squash with Ground Oats and Turmeric; Happy Baby Organics (coming 2021): Sweet Potatoes & Olive Oil with Rosemary; Purple Carrots, Cauliflower & Avocado Oil with Oregano; Pumpkin Tree Organic Mango Purée with Oat Fiber & Seeds + a squeeze of Orange; Once Upon a Farm Organic OhMyMega Veggie! with Ginger and Flax Seed
Peels and stems have come a long way from the compost bin. We’re seeing a huge rise in packaged products that use neglected and underused parts of an ingredient as a path to reducing food waste. Upcycled foods, made from ingredients that would have otherwise been food waste, help to maximize the energy used to produce, transport and prepare that ingredient. Dig in, do good.
Try the Trend: The Ugly Company: 100% Upcycled Kiwis, Apricots and Peaches; Pulp Pantry Pulp Chips (coming 2021): Barbecue, Jalapeño Lime, Salt ‘n’ Vinegar; Barnana Organic Banana Bites: Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup; Renewal Mill: 1-to-1 Baking Flour made from okara, or upcycled soybean pulp; Spudsy Sweet Potato Puffs snacks: Vegan Buffalo Ranch; ReGrained SuperGrain+ Bars made with an upcycled blend of barley, wheat and rye: Manuka Honey, Cinnamon & Turmeric Immunity, Blueberry, Sunflower & Ginger Antioxidant
Slide over, olive oil. There’s a different crop of oils coming for that place in the skillet or salad dressing. At-home chefs are branching out with oils that each add their own unique flavor and properties. Walnut and pumpkin seed oils lend a delicious nutty flavor, while sunflower seed oil is hitting the shelves in a bunch of new products and is versatile enough to use at high temps or in salad dressing.
Try the Trend: 365 by Whole Foods Market Expeller Pressed Walnut Oil; International Collection Pumpkin Seed Oil; 88 Acres Seed Dressing, Smoky Chipotle Dressing with Sunflower Seeds; 365 by Whole Foods Market Grain Free Cassava Flour Tortillas made with sunflower seed oil; innovative menu items from Whole Foods Market in-store venues like PLNT Burger’s Crispy Chik N Funguy Sandwich and Next Level Burger’s Tots and Fries, both made with organic sunflower seed oil
We tipped you off about hard seltzer bursting on the scene in 2018, and now alcoholic kombucha is making a strong flex on the beverage aisle. Hard kombucha checks all the boxes: It’s gluten-free, it’s super bubbly and can be filled with live probiotic cultures. Cheers to that!
Try the Trend: Strainge Beast Hard Kombucha: Ginger, Lemon & Hibiscus; Passion Fruit, Hops & Blood Orange; Juneshine Hard Kombucha: Blood Orange Mint, Acai Berry; BOOCHCRAFT Organic Hard Kombucha: Grapefruit Hibiscus; Kombrewcha Hard Kombucha: Ginger Lemon; Wild Tonic Hard Kombucha: Blueberry Basil, Mango Ginger; Jiant Hard Kombucha: The Original, Hicamaya; hard kombucha on tap at Whole Foods Market taprooms
THE MIGHTY CHICKPEA
You can chickpea anything. Yep, the time has come to think beyond hummus and falafel, and even chickpea pasta. Rich in fiber and plant-based protein, chickpeas are the new cauliflower — popping up in products like chickpea tofu, chickpea flour and even chickpea cereal. That’s garbanzo-bonkers.
Try the Trend: Biena Vegan Ranch Chickpea Puffs; Peppi’s Greek Gourmet GreekFreez frozen dessert made with chickpea aquafaba: Orange Chocolate, Mint Chocolate Chip; Chikfu Chickpea Tofu; Three Wishes Cereal made with chickpeas (coming 2021): Cinnamon, Honey; Siete Family Foods Chickpea Flour Tortillas; Banza Pizza made with chickpeas: Margherita, Roasted Veggie
FRUIT AND VEGGIE JERKY
Jerky isn’t just for meat lovers anymore. Now all kinds of produce from mushrooms to jackfruit are being served jerky-style, providing a new, shelf-stable way to enjoy fruits and veggies. The produce is dried at the peak freshness to preserve nutrients and yumminess. If that’s not enough, suppliers are literally spicing things up with finishes of chili, salt, ginger and cacao drizzle.
Try the Trend: Snack Jack Jackfruit Jerky: Cracked Pepper, Sweet Chili; Pan’s Zesty Thai Mushroom Jerky; Solely Organic Fruit Jerky: Mango with Chili & Salt, Pineapple with Chili & Salt, Mango with Drizzled Cacao; Wild Joy Banana Jerky: Original, Chipotle Lime, Ginger Teriyaki; Fat Top Farm Spicy Mushroom Jerky (coming late 2020)
“Try the Trend” products include a variety of items available now or coming to Whole Foods Market stores for either local or national distribution. Shoppers can seek out trending products by visiting Whole Foods Market on Amazon.
About Whole Foods Market
For 40 years, Whole Foods Market has been the world’s leading natural and organic foods retailer. As the first national certified organic grocer, Whole Foods Market has more than 500 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. To learn more about Whole Foods Market, please visit https://media.wholefoodsmarket.com.
Former Noma chef David Zilber is partnering with Chr. Hansen, a global supplier of bioscience ingredients. Denmark-based Chr. Hansen has 40,000 microbial strains used as natural ingredient solutions for food, nutrition, pharmaceutical and agricultural products. Zilber said: “Fermentation is undergoing a democratization, and that’s something we both want to help accelerate.”
Zilber adds: “At Noma, I felt like I had accomplished everything I had set out to and more. Also, the pandemic really made me think about the shape of the world from a new perspective. I wanted to take the values and tenets that I believe in to the next level and scale them up to affect real change in the food system. And Chr. Hansen is already such a powerhouse within that world. A powerhouse in the realm of good microbes, a realm where I can put my skills to use, helping to create delicious and healthy solutions. I want to apply some of the ideas I have in mind to problems on a massive scale and try to do as much good as possible in the process. There’s a common mission we’re both striving to accomplish. And because of that, this really feels like a perfect match.”
Adds Laurent Hubert, vice president in FC&E, Head of Food & Beverages at Chr. Hansen: “David is someone who can address a wide and diverse audience in a very thoughtful way, sharing his innovative insights on fermentation. Teaming that kind of personality up with a company who has been in the fermentation business for almost 150 years hopefully delivers a fruitful mix of drive, scientific knowledge and purpose. It is a partnership born out of passion for fermentation. Coming from arguably one of the world’s best restaurants to join one of the world’s most sustainable companies, David can contribute together with us to a resilient and tasteful food system. This will be a major asset to develop our two lighthouses: This will be a major asset to develop our two lighthouses: Bioprotection (food cultures against food waste) and Fermented Plant Bases, which has just been introduced as a lighthouse. We are looking forward to a constructive collaboration.”
Read more (Chr. Hansen)
Fermentation is more than just a food processing technique. Sandor Katz, today’s “godfather of fermentation,” expounds on the metaphorical significance of fermentation in his new book “Fermentation as Metaphor.”
“Fermentation is such a fascinating lens through which to look at the world and the incredible practicality of traditional cultural wisdom,” says Katz, fermentation author and educator, during a webinar hosted by The Fermentation Association. “In the English language, there’s a long tradition of describing things as fermenting that are not foods and beverages. We talk about a period of great musical fermentation, artistic fermentation, political fermentation, culture fermentation, we’ve applied it very widely. This book is really an exploration of that and a reflection of that.”
Katz spoke with his friend Mara King, chef and food professional, and they shared thoughts on how fermentation can be an unstoppable force for change.
“Fermentation is really teaching the world to embrace weird and funky things,” King says. “Take natural wines as an example. There’s a big movement in the world of wine making for using older techniques, using less chemical filtration and clarification methods. What you’re left with is a product that changes year to year and a product that has subtle notes of animal or leather, things you wouldn’t find before. We’re realizing a little bit of horrible is quite wonderful.”
Until the 19th Century, all wine was natural, Katz points out. Winemakers relied on organisms on the skins of the grapes for the flavor. Beer used to be a similarly natural product, but that’s changed as brewers today add yeast strains.
“It’s so much more interesting and complex of a flavor than the mass-produced beer where just a single organism is introduced. Fermentation really encourages people to expand their palates,” Katz says. “Funk is good. Funk makes things interesting. Funk is complexity. What I’ve learned by working with fermented tofu in food, working with natto in food, working with sumbala, the West African condiments that are natto-like, working with fish sauce, is [these ingredients on their own] might taste awful to you, but a little bit can introduce this je ne sais quoi into the flavor of a dish. Complexity is good and even flavors on their own that people might find scary or intimidating.”
The photography featured in “Fermentation as Metaphor” is unique — magnified microbes used in the creation of fermented food and drink. The images, captured with a scanning electron microscope, show the complexity of these microorganisms. Each structure is supported by a smaller structure, with membranes that are highly permeable.
“There continues to be a magic to fermentation, maybe in some ways even more so as fewer people have direct contact with their food. As there’s less wine making, cheese making, [or] baking in our lives that people actually see, these processes become more and more mysterious. [Mystery] has always been an aspect of fermentation because, until very recent times, there was never a clear, rational scientific understanding of what is going on. They were always seen as divine processes with lots of ceremony and ritual attached to them,” Katz adds. “Fermentation takes this neutral, plain food and gives it this really discernable, compelling flavor.”
Katz is already working on his next book, a fermentation travelogue book highlighting what he’s learning about fermentation in his worldwide travels. Katz and King previously filmed a series “The People’s Republic of Fermentation,” sharing the fermentation traditions of southwest China. They were supposed to travel to Taiwan and eastern China earlier this year, but the trip was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Next on Katz’s “to do” list — exploring the fermented cuisine of West Africa.
LA Times focused on kimchi in their October 4 food section entirely dedicated to the subject. Articles included a feature on kimchi making with Emily Kim @maangchi (the chef dubbed “YouTube’s Korean Julia Child”), must-try kimchi spots in the L.A. area and a history of kimchi in Korea. The article reads:
“A keystone of the Korean diet, kimchi is an unmistakable star that rarely commands the spotlight and is instead relegated to side-dish status. But its absence is always glaring.
“If I run out of kimchi, I’m lost,” said Emily Kim, better known to just about anyone who has ever searched online for a Korean recipe as Maangchi. For 13 years, Kim has helped bring Korean cooking into countless home kitchens through her cookbooks and her popular YouTube channel, Cooking Korean Food With Maangchi, which has nearly 5 million subscribers.
On days she prefers to keep it simple at home in the kitchen, Kim sticks to the basics: kimchi, rice and soup.
“Sometimes, depending on my mood, I’d make more protein, like bulgogi,” Kim said. But kimchi is the linchpin of her meals. “Even if I have meat and I can make bulgogi, if I don’t have kimchi, I’m like, ‘What should I eat?’”
Such is the fervent faith many Koreans have in their culture’s iconic dish. There’s a willingness to believe kimchi can save — be it a meal or the spirit — because it has come through so many times before.
“As long as I have kimchi in my refrigerator, I don’t worry much,” said Kim.”
Read more (Los Angeles Times)