Go inside the world of professional taste testing and product development with Imperfect’s Product and Private Label Specialist, Elliot Drucker.
“Food is such an interesting vehicle for so much more than just eating.”
When your fancy mustard zigzags smoothly across your hot dog, you don’t stop to think about everything that went into making that perfect mustard moment.
It’s when the mustard squirts out in watery bursts or is marketed with a scandalous name that you ask, “who’s great idea was that?”
Meet Elliot Drucker. Elliot lives in Brooklyn, enjoys long runs through the city, collects houseplants with his wife Hannah, and that mustard just might have been his idea.
The fancy one, that is, not the scandalous one.
That’s because Elliot used to taste condiments and sauces like mayo, mustard, and dressings professionally. It was a job coveted by his coworkers and friends and left folks often asking him, “how’d you get that job?”
In 2014 Elliot attended the Culinary School at the Institute of Culinary Education, which is more than just a mouthful. It’s a very prestigious mouthful. So prestigious in fact that it helped him land a job working for the Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, whose unique style of presenting food and quirky personality quickly launched him to the lofty status of a “celebrity chef.”
During his stints in various kitchens, Elliot realized what he loved most about cooking was creating harmonious combinations from unexpected ingredients. “What happens if you mix this and that into this and then get that and then turn it upside down?” he might ask himself. And so he got a job doing just that, working in recipe development at a well-known food company.
This is where the sauce starts to thicken.
After impressing his employers with a mango-chutney-inspired “Mangonaise,” he moved into the product development world and began putting his taste buds to the test.
Elliot started developing ketchup, hot sauces, mayos, mustards, ranch dressings, creamy dressings, vegan mayo, vinaigrettes, emulsion-based sauces like aioli, globally-inspired sauces, and experimental sauces like hot honey.
In stage after stage of product development, Elliot would mix different ingredients, take them away, add more, and adjust with precision until his alchemy resulted in the desired consistency, taste, texture, and look that was better and distinct from what it would be competing against.
Elliot might get there in 10 stages, he might get there in 100. It’s hard to say. But what’s for sure is that he had to taste each and every one of them.
People often thought of Elliot’s job as “glamorous,” but what they didn’t know is that to get from 0 to Chipotle Mayo involved sending spoonful after spoonful of mayonnaise down the hatch.
And always taking care to be thorough at his job– this included tasting products that were well past their expiration date. Using machines that would heat, shake and disturb the ingredients that kept his concoction shelf-safe, Elliot would be able to age an item by months or years in a fraction of the time. And then in he would go with his trusty spoon.
But even after all that effort, some products just didn’t make the cut. Like the time he tried to create a Mexican-inspired “Mole Mayo.” Surprisingly, smokey peppers, bitter chocolate, and creamy mayo just weren’t meant to be. Yet.
We’re excited to see what tasty new items Elliot’s dedication will bring to Imperfect! And to read more stories from the Imperfect team, check out out Elbows on the Table Series.