From Singapore to the USA and all around Europe, Edible Innovations profiles food makers that engage in improving the global food system at every stage, from production to distribution to eating and shopping. Join us as we explore the main trends in the industry from a maker perspective. Chiara Cecchini of Future Food Institute — an ecosystem with a strong educational core that promotes food innovation as a key tool to tackle the great challenges of the future — introduces you to the faces, stories, and experiences of food makers around the globe. Check back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for new installments.
Today we speak about fermentation, the magic process that breaks down a complex substance into a simpler one. Although we’ve covered this topic with a few makers in the last months, today I am going to talk about three interesting makers who are each applying this practice in totally different ways. Why? Because we believe diversity is one of the pillars of Food Makers and there is something different to learn in any making culture.
Jose de la Rosa
Bologna, I sit down with one of my Future Food Institute colleagues, and co-founder of Shiliao.Bo, Jose de la Rosa. Jose tells me that “he used to be a biologist, but now he prefers to define himself as a food scientist.” He is working at Scuderia Future Food Lab and is in charge of the Fermentation Lab, the laboratory where Shiliao.Bo was born. Shiliao is a Chinese concept. It means that food is life. “Overall, we aim of re-use all the waste and leftovers from restaurant and cafeteria within the Scuderia Future Food Lab. We want to reinvented the unwanted waste and enhance the nutrition of the properties of this food. In the end, we want to add value and transform the raw material thru fermentation, aroma water, and herbal tea,” Jose said.
With José, the friend and colleague Francesco. Another explosive food maker, Francesco has an extensive knowledge on medicinal plants with particular attention to the most innovative cultivation and production techniques. He worked on raw materials nutraceutical aspects, as well as processed food products. He is currently responsible for EduLab innovation at Future Food.
Jose’s goal is using fermentation as a way of “giving life to food, enhancing its benefits.” He is making his dream a reality inside a physical lab. The key learning here is that food maker spaces are crucial to building and sharing good practices, and Jose has done a pretty good job with it!
Sacramento, Sacha invites me to a kombucha workshop. We’ve talked about Sacha in an Edible Innovations before. She is a cheese and kombucha maker. She loves fermentation. When we previously spoke, we focused a lot on the process of making clothes out of SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) as a creative and effective way to reuse a product that the nature is giving to us. But when I got to the Sacramento Natural Food Co-op I saw how much physical spaces and education are important for her as well. Everything began as a food buying club in 1972. In 2001, they opened a space and a cooking school and now they just started a new project in a new location. Food Makers in California, keep it in mind! The Natural Food Co-op hosted Sasha for an insanely insightful 2-hour workshop on fermentation and kombucha making, and it is open to do the same for other inspiring food makers who live or happen to be in the area.
Hong Kong, I have tea in Wan Chai with Girish Mithran, an Indian Food Maker who joined forces with two friends and business partners to build a new product: Yomee, an automatic yogurt maker for everyday life. Girish tells me that the initial question they started from was about finding a way to enable everybody to make perfect yogurt at home. Their answer is a machine which automates and simplifies the yogurt-creation process by taking care of the fermentation process. It first boils and stirs the milk for 15 minutes, than cools the milk back down to 115°F (or 46°C), and finally, Yomee drops a culture-filled pod. At this point, the machine simply incubates the milk at a steady temperature for 6 hours, during which the live cultures transform milk into yogurt. The first prototype was back in 2016 and Girish tells me that the team has spent the last 18 months working on the hardware and the culture-filled pod design. Now, they are getting some support through crowdfunding and they are getting ready to switch from a prototype-mode to a product-mode, facing real customers.
These three stories are as different as they are interestingly connected. Fermentation is growing in every corner of the world and more and more makers are putting their hands on it, from building spaces for sharing fermentation practices to creating devices that make it more accessible to people. And you know what? You could be the next one!