This is part one of a two-part series about our Executive Chef. Today, we discuss her accomplishments prior to joining our team. Tomorrow, we’ll find out how she reacted to her new sous chef, Chef B, our robot! Read part two.
Here’s the challenge: figure out how to make delicious, nutritious, healthy blends that a robot can execute with flair. When Kristen heard the offer, she simply couldn’t resist. “With a background in academia and traditional cooking methods, the idea of working in tech – and for a start-up – was both novel and interesting. I’ve always loved a challenge and Blendid seemed like a good fit.”
Nutrition wasn’t her first love; it was cooking.
Kristen quickly discovered cooking was about more than preparing food. “I’m really interested in food that tastes amazing and makes you feel good. For me, the idea of preparing nourishing foods in ways that make them taste delicious was meaningful. Nutritious should taste as good or better than foods that don’t deliver the same value.” That pursuit provided her path forward.
“While I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), I don’t like telling people what not to eat, as often happens in traditional nutrition counseling. Instead I wanted to attract people to eating better through deliciousness. Vegetables should be crave-worthy. Whole grains should get you excited. And after you eat real, whole, nutrient-dense ingredients, most people realize they feel a lot better.”
We all have a relationship with food.
As her passion grew, so did her intellectual interest. She teaches for the nutrition department at UC Berkeley and, over the years, she’s watched as nutrition shifted from being focused on the micro-management of intake (think food pyramid and calorie counting), and evolved into conscious eating. In fact, this concept is what fuels one of her favorite courses: Food, Culture, and the Environment.
The class encapsulates our relationship with food by looking at the factors that determine how we eat. It includes elements like culinary traditions, local food sources, sustainability, seasonal differences, genetics, marketing, and much more. It’s a popular course that she hopes to take “mainstream” through UC Berkeley Extension so anyone can enroll and understand our relationship with food historically, currently, and as we move into the future.
Making a difference in how people eat.
Throughout her career, Kristen has also picked up some consulting gigs with her company, Rooted Food Inc. She led the Cal (Berkeley) Dining effort to visit farms and producers throughout Northern California, develop recipes, and assemble the environmentally-conscious and, let’s not forget delicious, menu for Brown’s on the Berkeley campus. She included ingredients like honey from American Canyon, olive oil from Chico, brown rice from Richvale, goat cheese from Sonoma, lamb bacon from Dixon, and a wide variety of produce from the surrounding Bay Area.
She also worked with Bon Appetít Management Company, a food service provider for many universities and organizations in the Bay Area and beyond. Over the course of 12 years, she saw changes in how the company evolved to meet the changing needs of their customers: sustainability, healthier foods, local growers, better recipes. She was fully prepared for her transition to robots. Or so she thought!
Come back tomorrow for part 2 of our interview with Kristen!