Flavorology: The Scientific Art of Developing Flavors

I grew up in the family vanilla factory. When I was young, I remember the excitement of a new flavor in the Cook’s lab. My grandfather, Raymond Lochhead, a Chemical Engineer from Cal Tech and unmatched vanilla expert, would come out of the lab with little Dixie cups of flavored milk. Each cup varied just slightly. It was my job, along with my parents, to decipher which variation was the best by blind taste test. We all had to go outside the building, because as any passerby knows, the sweet aroma of vanilla permeates the entire Cook’s factory.

As I grew older, my interest in the techniques and nuances of flavor development prompted me to pursue a Bachelors of Science in Chemistry from Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, CA. As I studied through difficult classes in Organic and Analytical Chemistry, always in the back of my mind was the vanilla factory. How could I use this wealth of knowledge to improve our existing flavors and develop new ones? I was amazed by the sophisticated tools and techniques and immediately brought them back to my grandfather’s lab in Paso Robles.

Creating a new flavor is an exhilarating experience! It is challenging and fun- artistic and scientific. I devoured as many books on the subject as I could find and went to work smelling and tasting flavoring components from my grandfather’s extensive library. Each flavorist develops his or her own unique method. I prefer to take a more artistic approach. I use research and analysis as a starting point and I pipette, mix, smell, and taste my way to the final product.

The marvelous thing about vanilla is that it is remarkably complex. Even the most accomplished flavor chemist cannot come close to the complex and beautiful flavor that comes from the vanilla bean. The vanilla bean holds over 400 known natural flavoring components- and our exclusive Tongan vanilla beans offer a rich flavor that is impossible to top! They are bursting with so much flavor that our building can be smelled from blocks away! It is such a privilege and a flavorist’s dream to work with such amazing produce!

I strive to always produce flavors and extracts that match the quality of these vanilla beans and the Cook’s gourmet standard. It is my greatest pleasure to create these flavors for you!

Margaret Schmidt

Flavor Chemist

Cook’s Flavoring Co.

 

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