Have you ever had a fabulous food idea that you wanted to develop and bring to the marketplace, like an Impossible Red Hot Dog or Maine’s Mushroom Burger, but didn’t know where to get started? Look no further than Rob Dumas, University of Maine’s Food Science Innovation Coordinator and the Manager of the Dr. Matthew Highlands Pilot Plant, a state-of-the-art research facility that aims to elevate, diversify and innovate Maine food products alongside big and small Maine food producers. The Pilot Plant is decked out with top-notch food processing equipment, including a pasta maker, meat chopper, dehydrator, blast freezer, steam cooker, cheese making equipment and packaging equipment.
A few months ago, I was researching how to start a specialty food product in Maine. The first link that popped up led me to Dr. Beth Calder, Food Science Specialist for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and School of Food & Agriculture. Dr. Calder has been an invaluable resource to me in launching my culinary collection, ‘Journey in a Jar’ – signature shelf-stable Indian sauces, spreads and marinades.
Dr. Calder suggested I attend a training at MOFGA( Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association) and that is where I first met Dumas who happened to be a presenter at the training. I was on the heels of launching Maine’s Bicentennial Food Podcast – Maine’s food story past, present and future. Intrigued by how Dumas’ role could shape Maine’s food landscape in the future, I invited him to share his thoughts and his vision on the podcast.
Dumas has the most fascinating food story, one that started in the southern state of Louisiana, and ended up in the northern state of Maine. He’s cooked in kitchens large, small and even presidential. From a submarine off the coast of Virginia, to the White House Navy Mess and even cooking for the Obama family while on the road. Yet, if you met him he would tell you he is facing his biggest challenge yet!
My head is already brimming with ideas I might want to develop alongside Dumas’ expertise and the top notch commercial equipment at the Dr. Matthew Highland’s Pilot Plant. It seems like a no-brainer to leverage the tremendous resources that the University of Maine’s School of Food & Ag have in place. Check them out here. There is a fee associated with the service and its based on the scope of the product being developed.
But first, be sure to tune into Rob’s insightful podcast to find out how a latchie kid from Slidell, Louisiana curated a deep understanding of food… one that greatly influences his gig as Maine’s food innovation go-to-guy!