Major: Culinary Arts
Job Title: Founder, Culinex
Location: Seattle, Washington
With seven years experience as director of food product development at Starbucks and years as director, menu and product development for Olive Garden, Mark began to recognize an unfilled niche when it came to organic foods in chain restaurants. So in 2005, he stepped away from his corporate job and started CuliNex, which offers companies of all sizes product development services focused on organic and natural food.
With pressure from consumers and the regulatory arm of the government demanding that companies pay more attention to what they are putting in their food, CuliNex helps them not only introduce new organic foods to their product list but also to clean up their food labels by ridding them of preservatives. One of the obstacles companies face is a lack of availability of raw materials. “You have to contract a year in advance to get organic vegetables in any quantity,” Mark explains, “and just because an item is organic or natural doesn’t mean that it’s good from a culinary standpoint. It may not taste good and may offer few nutritional advantages.” CuliNex is there to guide clients through that and the many other challenges they face.
Mark’s keen understanding of the social and emotional process consumers go through to embrace organic and natural foods, his understanding the culinary science and techniques, and his expertise in successfully bringing food items to the marketplace make CuliNex much sought after. These days, its small but thriving client roster includes companies in Vietnam and Italy, all hoping to fill a culinary niche.