Meet A Local | Deboleena Dutta
Happy almost Halloween! To kick off our Halloween Week, we are proud to bring you Deb of Herb N Zest, creator of this months Pumpkin Curry Pesto! HerbNZest is a recently launched company featuring vegan speciality condiments using only premium naturally gluten-free ingredients and sourced locally wherever possible. Hand-crafted in small batches to maintain quality, it caters to the health-conscious while providing unique flavors that can enhance and elevate dishes inspired by global travel.
The philosophy behing HerbNZest is "Simple Artisan Goodness". Believing that nature already delivers the best ingredients, the company is dedicated to producing simple sustainable quality that translates to good taste and artfully developed products. Their way of life is to craft simple food that is good for you, good for society, and good for the planet.
What Inspired You To Start Your Company?
As a child spending summers in my grandma’s kitchen in India, I was surrounded by the smell and taste of spices and herbs. As an adult my love of food turned into an exploration and experimentation of flavors discovered through travel to over 20 countries.
It was only as a Summer Public Fellow providing micro-financing to entrepreneurs in a remote village India during my MBA at The Wharton School that it hit me: I wanted to think outside the cubicle, start something new! As a food-lover, starting a food company was the obvious choice. Food brings together people like nothing else does and I love the experience of food and the stories and memories that are created around the table when one is enjoying and sharing food with family and friends.
What I do now, as a food entrepreneur and founder of HerbNZest truly brings together all the elements of my experience: my love of food, my role as a busy mom, and my experience as a business-woman.
Tell us about your products.
We are about adventurous flavors, about inspiring creativity in the kitchen, and about keeping the process of food making and eating fun and easy! Growing up surrounded by the sights and smell and taste of spices and herbs, I was naturally attracted to them. Spices and Herbs from different parts of the world form the basis for my flavor profiles, hence the name, HerbNZest.
While developing the products, I realized how unhealthy and limited condiments on the store-shelves were: high in sugar, salt, fats, and artificial flavors. As a busy mom, I care for nutrition, versatility, and ease of use and not finding those options prompted me to create them!
For me it was also important to have fun with the process: it was a blast creating the flavor profiles such as Fennel Saffron Pumpkin Butter. For many condiments on shelves, the first thing that you taste is sugar. I wanted to highlight the fruit and the spices and herbs instead. I chose many premium ingredients for their health and taste factors: such as olive oil over canola, or brown sugar over cane sugar or kosher salt over regular salt, brown raisins (no sulphites) over yellow raisins.
The challenge was to incorporate the flavors with less sugar, salt and little or no oil. I also try to highlight certain flavors and textures to create a sensory experience: for instance, our Caramelized Apple Champagne Mustard has chunks of sweet hand-caramelized New York apples to provide texture while the back end is spicy from the brown mustard base.
And that is done through execution, the process that we use to actually create each flavor. Everything from choice of ingredients, to source of ingredients to final process plays an important role in the taste and nutrition of the product. As a result, our products have 10-20 calories, up to 3 gms sugar, up to 60 mg salt, and no Trans fats per table spoon. Plus, we make our products in multiple small batches to ensure quality and taste.
What Does “Artisan” Mean To You?
An artisan is a creator of beautiful products using quality ingredients and preserving or improving on techniques and know-how handed down over generations.
My hope as an artisan is to create adventurous flavors that inspire people to be creative, to experiment, and to have fun with their cooking in the kitchen.
What is your favorite artisanal treat?
I love umami flavors, so grilled Shitake mushrooms, with our Caramelized Apple Champagne Mustard and gruyere on a slice of French baguette is sublime!
Where Does Your Food Inspiration Come From?
To me food is about culture, stories and places. I am inspired by food from around the world and by how cuisines are influenced by history, culture, social structure, climate, and availability of ingredients. I love the discovery behind food. I usually work backwards from ingredients, picking seasonal produce at markets and then deciding what to make with them. With my work schedule, it was tough to make time for elaborate cooking and in any case I have always been the under 30-minute meal person. I like sautés, soups, salads, lentils, curry sauces, anything that has interesting flavor and texture.
What Products Are You Working On Now?
We are launching 2 cooking sauces this Fall and working on a new mustard for a spring launch.
Do You Have a Favorite Product?
It’s a tie between Caramelized Apple Champagne Mustard, a spicy brown mustard with sweet undertone from hand-caramelized apples and a well-rounded rich flavor from champagne.
Curry Pumpkin Pesto, a dairy-free savory, light and distinctly crafted pesto using pumpkin accentuated by curry flavors, sunflower seeds, and olive oil.
Latest Ingredient Obsession?
Wild bay leaves foraged by me on a recent hiking trail
What Did You Have For Dinner Last Night?
Kale salad with dried cranberries, walnuts and vinaigrette, Tortellini with our Pumpkin Butter and Truffle oil and a glass of Chardonay.
What Person, Living Or Dead, Would You Most Like To Have Try Your Product?
Michelle Obama, because of her work in creating awareness with the Let’s Move campaign. I think it’s important to bring fun and ease into cooking and eating at home and that is the premise behind HerbNZest.
What’s The Best Piece Of Advice You’ve Gotten In Building Your Business? What Advice Would You Give Other Artisans?
If you believe in something, if you want to make a difference, go for it! Your passion is the foundation but to build a business, you need to develop a business plan, do your market research, and figure out what resources, finances, and partners you need to develop your business! Have a vision and make sure that as you grow your company, you stay true to that vision.
What Other Local Food Artisans or Chefs Do You Admire?
Chef Anthony Bordain, I know he’s famous, but I love his adventurous food travels.
If You Had To Choose Your Last Meal, What Would It Be?
Given my Indian Heritage, it would have to be Kashmiri Rogan Josh and Biryani Rice Pilaf with a glass of Gewürztraminer.
Favorite Restaurant or Food Experience?
A food tour through the streets of Athens, Greece savoring olives, olive oil, feta and ending at a local restaurant on Plaka with local beer, dolmas and lokoumades
A tour of the bustling Tokyo Fish Market at 5am followed by a breakfast of fresh sushi and udon
What’s Do You Enjoy Doing Outside of the Kitchen?
I love exploring new places, markets, foods, and people. And of course, I love swimming or hiking on new trails with my kids and husband.
What’s Your Favorite Kitchen Soundtrack?
It depends, it could be Gypsy Kings when I am making something spicy and bold or Adele or Norah Jones for everyday cooking and relaxing with a glass of wine. Surprisingly, many a times we end up listening to Sesame Street if my 3.5 year old is in charge of the remote: I love Elmo’s song!