Lisa Bromley, food technologist, McCarthy Spice and Blends
Sweet-hot black pepper, clean bay laurel and musky cloves perfume the air around McCarthy Spice and Blends even before the door opens. Inside, workers in aprons, hair nets and gloves label airtight foil packets of blends. Off the factory floor, food technologist Lisa Bromley jump starts every order, large or small.
"Our customers come to us with so many ideas," she says. "They've blended something they like, but they want to save time or maintain consistency in commercial cooking. Some customers sell their family spice blends through retailers. For a minimum order of 50 pounds, we'll work with them."
A restaurant kitchen makes the same soup several times a week. By using pre-measured spices, time saved becomes money earned. A sausage maker wants each batch of andouille to taste the same. Bromley's artistry and scientific know-how make it happen.
"We keep confidentiality for each customer's blend. We won't sell their blend to anyone," says Bromley. She records every ingredient and its origin, then each blend sample is assigned a batch number and is retained for two years.
In her kitchen laboratory, spices and herbs wait in a floor-to-ceiling pantry. A stand mixer, scales, stainless steel spoons and bowls wait on the counter. When Bromley's worked out the blends, the factory takes over. Hobart mixers tall as a short person and packaging equipment to fill 50-pound boxes or 3-ounce plastic jars churn out custom product.
Bromley doesn't have set tasks each day, rather, she responds to customer needs. "I spend a fair amount of bench time each week," she says.
People sometimes bring in degraded samples. "Light and heat damage flavor. Hot peppers lose color and heat, too. Dark olive parsley flakes don't have much left in them. Fresh herbs and spices make the blend look and taste different, so we test until we get what works."
Quality control and furnishing the ingredient statements for nutrition facts panels on the blends fall within her purview. She files certificates of analysis on all ingredients at the glass-free facility, too.
Bromley loves her work. She belongs to the Institute of Food Technologists to stay connected to the industry and to other St. Louis members. If she were starting over today, she'd get her degree in culinology. It's an inspired pairing; the science of food technology with the culinary arts. She might not have the sheepskin, but Lisa Bromley has the art and the science down.