Saturday, February 26, 2005

Herbs, spices and the Science of Taste

My herb and spice seasoning range has been well received by cooks, chefs and manufacturers as their flavours are discovered to work in a wide range of dishes.

I have also had feedback on how using my herbs and spices have contributed to making mealtimes a lot easier. One subscriber emailed me a few weeks ago saying that her son was a very finicky eater rejecting more than he accepted. It was my Oz Lemon herb mix which he took to like a duck to water and according to the email, it seemed to even lift his mood and dinner-time became (almost) a pleasure.

Our sense of taste

Why would this be, you might ask? Well there is no doubt that herbs and spices play an important role in stimulating different areas of the 20,000 taste buds on the upper surface of our tongues, on our cheeks, palate and throat. Interestingly, children respond to smaller amounts of flavour (and react more to taste than to smell). Adults can lose up to half their sense of taste and more into old age and it is definitely a case of ‘use it or lose it’. We can condition our sense of flavour and keep it acute by paying attention to what we taste and vary the sources of different stimuli.

But flavours of herbs and spices, fruits, nuts, salts, acids, fat in fact, any flavours, also act on our brains at a basic chemical level. Firstly, this happens as a direct response to the primary stimuli of sour, sweet, salty or bitter. Recently, the extra characteristic called umami has been added and is the overall tastiness, meatiness or savoury flavour perhaps best thought of in terms of beefiness and possibly also the toasty, roasted flavours known as Maillard products (coffee, chocolate, bread and of course, Wattleseed).

An extra degree of refinement is that we have our sweet receptors concentrated on the tip of our tongue, sour and salt along the sides and then bitter and umami in the middle at the back of our tongue.

Each of our taste buds is a barrel shaped cluster of elongated cells equipped with receptive hairs (nerve endings) reaching into the barrel. A single nerve fibre carries stimuli (yes, plural because it may react to sweet as well as bitter, for example) to the primitive taste-brain in our brain stem. This then is relayed to the thalamus and on to be further processed in the anterior cerebral cortex.

Too much information?

If you think that this is not how you taste a cup of Oz Lemon tea, it may be a bit too much detail for you. However, you’d also partly be right. And this is because we have another set of taste detectors which react to the burn of chilli, temperature, astringency and texture. These impulses travel to the cerebral cortex of the higher brain via a different pathway - the fifth or trigeminal, cranial nerve. This is significant since it is also the region right next to the triggers for vomiting, salivating and retching. Presumably, this set of reactions was important to us during our free-ranging, trial and error, hunter-gatherer days.

So, now back to yet other effects of food which are extra-curricular to taste and back to our finicky eater. There are many components of foods which can have pharmacological effects. This might result in stimulation of the type a non-coffee drinker might experience from a caffeine hit. Then there are components which slow us down, mellow us out, help fortify the immune system or affect water balance, electrolyte excretion or energy metabolism. There’s a whole raft of possible effects, just from these components and many occur in high concentrations in everyday herbs and spices. Oz Lemon contains a number of herbs which have components with some pharmacologic properties, namely the stimulating essential oils; citral and trans-anethole. It also contains a mixture of organic acids which have been shown to play a protective role in the bowel against cancer. And then there are compounds we haven't even characterised but which form part of the whole action as a beneficial herbal mix.

For more on the medicinal effects of native Australian herbs and spices, please visit this link.

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Sunday, February 20, 2005

Chefs, manufacturers and foodies - a reality check

A lot of my clients run restaurants, cook interesting food at home or manufacture products which people eat or drink to enjoy or use to add to their well-being. I have clients here in Australia and overseas and I was only thinking about them and my business this morning. You might like to share some of my insights, deliberation and strategy and apply the same analysis to your own situation.

What do I uniquely offer my end-users - chefs, manufacturers and foodies? What do I offer that no-one else can?

I add serious value to my clients by taking commodity offerings (everyday food, ordinary menus, pedestrian products) and introducing a unique, innovative, interesting Australian twist. A chef could serve a steak with mushroom sauce or they could value add it to a Wildfire crusted beef fillet with mushrooms enhanced with Wattleseed, forest anise and munthari berries. A manufacturer could make the Wildfire crusted steak or the exotic and delicious mushroom sauce. I know which dish I'd prefer to eat and which products I'd rather buy.

We all eat. Some of us, more than others and a few of us appreciate new flavours and the concept of wild, healthy foods which really contribute to our well-being. So I know that I do have a market as I know my ingredients are absolutely delicious, versatile to use - loaded with culinary and nutritional benefits.

I also know that I can appeal to my clients who emotionally recognise the marketing importance of not selling commodities where all you can compete on is price or availability.

There is no doubt that any chef, manufacturer or home cook who uses my flavours in the way I suggest or use ingredients I specially make for them, will also add value for their client base.

Sure. The end product still needs to be presented in an appealing way and through outlets where their clients shop. Shelves (real or virtual) need to be stocked or menus well described. But the market exists and can be reached economically.

My ingredients have the differentiation we all look for in following the next trend or looking to new flavours or just something different from what we had last week. My wife Clare, once described the authentic Australian ingredients I have commercialised as being for chefs and manufacturers, what a whole new set of colours would be to an artist.

Isn't that spot on? You don't even have to be a Rembrandt or Picasso to recognise the value in having more 'colours', particularly when the collection can be bundled in a whole new categories of Australian food, beverages, cosmaceuticals or nutraceuticals.

Then there's the consideration of who is behind this new wave of ingredients. Are they ethical, honest, hard-working at the same time as visionary, creative and forward thinking? Every industry has its parasites and the native Australian food industry is no exception but I know my contribution as leader and hope to continue in this role.

If I consider my 'business DNA', I see the new, original, innovative, purpose-developed array of ingredients which I have created and which keep me out there as market leader. It's just a reality check but worth doing if you analyse your own activities in your business, as a cook or chef or in whatever it is that you do.

The next check I came to was frugality. Was there waste in the systems, operations or even communications? Well there's some waste in the interest payments on loans but I reckon that otherwise, I run a really tight ship.

And lastly, the passion. It only takes a single match or spark to start an inferno but to keep it roaring you need fuel, heat and oxygen. A growing list of clients are my fuel, my passion to see these amazing ingredients world reknown could be the heat and the oxygen might be the vision and the faith that the light at the end of the tunnel is not an on-coming train.


If you are a chef wanting to make your mark through the food you serve.

If you are a home cook who likes to explore the world through the flavours you discover and eat for good health and long life as well.

Or if you are a manufacturer who needs to move off the 'level' playing field of competitive products and saturated markets and wants to make your next new product development a success.

Visit my website to discover more. Drop in to my virtual store and get a few items and be sure to grab a copy of my new Dining Downunder cookbook or manufacturers; get in touch with me (particularly bakery suppliers, ice creameries and biotechs) and join me up front as we pioneer these ingredients into world food markets.

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Sunday, February 13, 2005

Australian Ice Cream, Gelato and Sorbet flavors

The following names are suggestions only and manufacturers or chefs can be as creative or as conservative as deemed appropriate for the marketplace. If you would like other suggestions, please email me and other possible descriptors, recipes or combinations can be provided.

Acacia seed or Wattleseed (best used as an extract) makes a fabulous array of ice creams we think warrant the overall name of Acacia Magic:

Try Wattlemisu – The coffee, chocolate and hazelnut of Cherikoff Wattleseed extract blends tastefully with the traditional recipe of tiramisu.

An alternative is Wattleccino™ (see note end of page about the word), which is the same wattle flavored ice cream with the option of the addition of walnuts or pecans for texture or coconut butter as a complementary flavor.

Wild Jaffa® (wattle and orange). Try to pick the difference in flavor to those familiar sweets. You will taste the orange first before the chocolate-like wattle in the ice cream reminds you of the last time you had a Jaffa®.(Registered trade name of Cadbury Confectionery Ltd).

Another combination could be called Kimberley Karamel which is a combination of wattleseed ice cream served with a light caramel syrup.

Kakadu Krunch The aromatic heady lemon/lime in this flavor comes from the rainforest herb mix called Oz lemon which, combined with macadamia nut chips or honeycomb, is fantastic.

Another option could be Oz lemon on its own with the alluring name, Rainforest lemon.

Rainforest Dew (Fruit spice) – One of the best ice cream flavors with a fruity mix of passionfruit and berry character.

Mountain Mint (Australian peppermint) – Another classic ice cream flavor, this wild peppermint comes from our alpine high country. Taste the interesting aromatic finish to this delicious ice cream. I suggest adding vanilla to this mix to complement the flavour profile and other ingredients to use for variety could be coconut, chocolate or Oz lemon.

Australian Bite (strawberry and Alpine pepper) – A cleansing strawberry frozen dessert with the aromatic zing from one of our secret spice mixes made from ingredients sourced from our most southerly State.

Forest anise (aniseed myrtle) – ice cream with an addictive flavor, subtly reminiscent of Pernod and strongly moreish and stimulant. Great to wake up and go!

Crimson Tide A tangy and tasty ice cream with great colour and character from swirls of syrup made from a tropical fruit we know as wild rosella.

Remember; often the lesser the description the better the sales.

* The trade mark Wattleccino belongs to the Cherikoff Family Trust and can only be used through a licensing arrangment which involves the supply of Cherikoff Wattleseed or wattleseed extract under contract. The word cannot be used without this prior arrangement in place.

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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Our Survey on Hotel and Resort Cuisine Promotions

While putting our own Australian Cuisine Promotions out into the marketplace, we quickly realised that there are a whole lot of problems challenging hotel and resort chefs who work to provide variety, entertainment and stimulation for their in-house guests by using promotions of ethnic cuisines. Guest chefs are commonly invited for authenticity and sponsorship from suppliers, airlines and the relevant country's Embassy or business Chamber is sought with various degrees of success. Yet many promotions are still seen as significant cost centres and run for PR rather than as for what they should be - serious revenue generators.

This obviously doesn't have to be the case since hotels can attract visitors from outside their premises, they can offer other businesses venue space and theme mini trade fairs or add value to conferences and external events. Co-marketing opportunities exist with travel agents, trade agencies and even unrelated businesses who may benefit from holding an event to entertain large numbers of their clients in business and relationship building and networking functions. It is largely a matter of thinking outside the square to attract attendees to the promotions and look at what opportunity they offer potential guests. Then there is also the consideration of staff training. How convenient can it be to invite a guest chef who specialises in a particular cuisine and have him instruct your kitchen brigade on the intricacies of his specialty cuisine? Why shouldn't the HR Department contribute to the promotional budget from marketing?

This brings me to my next point. If a particular activity is done for one outcome, why not optimise the task and introduce additional outcomes? For instance, every time you make a phone call, think about the initial purpose you wish to achieve. Then consider what other results could be obtained to add value to that same call. For example, you may be calling a potential sponsor for a cuisine promotion. Whatever their reply on that matter, the same call could also introduce your facilities; provide information as to the contact's business and how you could collaborate; gain a referral to another contact (preferably a qualified referral with your contact calling his lead to preempt your approach); gain a subscription to your regular ezine or pamphlet update on your activities; and probably one or two more outcomes you can think to add yourself. The same thing applies to a promotion. If you are going to run one, how can it be optimised so that the same activity delivers exponential results?

Think about the simple process of sending out a notice to your own database telling them about your promotion. Is it possible to use someone else's database (a supplier, local businesses, trade agencies etc) to spread the word even further? While you're setting up this opportunity, could you not also ask if they have a subscription newsletter, could you link subscriptions and provide their new subscribers the option of joining your list as well?

Once you start optimising, it becomes an obsession but I can promise that it will grow your business dramatically over time.

As a means to gather more data, we have put together a survey at and are already getting some very interesting results. Because this is an industry benefit, we are happy to share the responses for all chefs to consider and use as they wish. If you would care to contribute, then please head for the page and fill in the answers as completely as you can and we'll add your comments to our global survey. You'll note that our survey not only has the outcome of the survey results but it helps respondents in their businesses; introduces our own services; gets used as a viral marketing tool with anyone recognising the value in the results recommending the survey to their friends and colleagues as a means of also adding networking value and lastly; updates out database so that we can continue to deliver useful information for our clients who are interested in the unique advantages from using Australian native ingredients.

Please visit and invest the 4 minutes it should take to complete the questionary. Thanks.

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