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Juan José Thuemme

Juan José Thuemme: Crafting Flavorful Legacies

Discovering New Molecules and Elevating Culinary Experiences!

What is life without flavor? A bland, forgettable existence devoid of the vivacious sensations that make each moment worth savoring. Flavor is the very essence that breathes spirit into the mundane and transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Think about the first sip of your morning coffee—the rich aroma swirling in the air as those bold notes of roasted beans play across your tongue. Or the burst of sweetness and tang that explodes in your mouth when you bite into a perfectly ripe strawberry. These are the moments that remind us of life’s delectable offerings. Referring to the famous quote by Mandy Aftel, “Flavor is the inexplicable essence of life itself,” Juan José Thuemme’s harmonious blend of ingredients has been a lifelong pursuit. As a pioneering food scientist and engineer in Mexico and the USA, his journey has been one of curiosity, innovation, and an insatiable passion for flavor.

After assisting in research and development roles early in his career, Thuemme found his true calling—the world of flavors. “I realized how crucial flavors are to the food experience,” he reflects. “It became my mission to discover their full potential.”

Today, as the Global Flavorist at Etadar by Deiman, he positions himself at the vanguard of flavor exploration and education. His vision? To establish a premier Flavorists School in Mexico, imparting decades of expertise to the next generation of professionals.

“This school will be a crucible of knowledge,” he enthuses. “We’ll explore progressive flavor research, finding new molecules, and developing accurate, nuanced profiles that elevate culinary experiences.”

But Thuemme’s ambitions extend beyond the classroom. He has pioneered a groundbreaking concept, “Native Flavors,”  that pays homage to Mexico’s rich pre-Hispanic culinary heritage. “These are the forgotten fruits and plants that once graced the tables of our ancestors,” he explains. “By reviving and sharing their unique flavors, we can rekindle a connection to our roots while introducing the world to a whole new palette of tastes.”

Whether training flavorists, pushing boundaries through research, or resurrecting culinary traditions, Thuemme’s mission is clear: to elevate the art and science of flavor to unprecedented heights. With his innovative spirit and uncompromising quest for superiority, he is poised to leave an indelible mark on the global culinary industry.

Let us learn more about his journey:

A Lifetime of Flavor

In a captivating turn of events, Juan, after dedicating 39 years of his career to International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), found himself getting on a new and exciting chapter. Upon completing his tenure at IFF, he made contact with a Mexican company, Deiman Flavors, and explored the possibility of collaborating with them.

To his delight, Deiman Flavors enthusiastically agreed to this partnership. Together, they embarked on a mission to create innovative flavor profiles, drawing inspiration from the rich culinary heritage of Mexico. Juan and his new colleagues set out to develop a diverse range of flavors, including the captivating “Tasclate,”  a native Mexican chocolate beverage, as well as intriguing blends featuring Aztec herbs and grains.

Driven by a deep passion for their craft, the team at Deiman Flavors provided support, enabling him to explore extensive research and leverage cutting-edge technology. This collaborative effort allowed them to discover the nuances and complexities of traditional Mexican flavors, transforming them into modern, captivating creations.

Furthermore, the partnership between Juan and Deiman Flavors extended beyond just flavor development. Together, they embarked on an ambitious project to establish an online school dedicated to the art and science of flavors. This endeavor promised to share the incredible stories and insights that Juan had accumulated throughout his remarkable career.

As he reflects on this new chapter, he is filled with a sense of excitement and fulfillment. The opportunity to explore the vibrant flavors of Mexico while also contributing to the education and advancement of the industry has ignited a renewed passion within him.

Vision of the Flavorists School in Mexico

Juan stated that the origin of flavors in Europe, Germany, France, and the USA has sparked a fervor among individuals in Mexico to delve into the realm of flavor creation. Observing the financial constraints that hinder many aspiring flavorists in Mexico from pursuing their passion abroad, he endeavored to bridge this gap by creating a supportive platform.

With the aim of democratizing access to flavor education, he conceptualized an online school that transcends borders, catering to both students and professionals eager to master the art of flavor design. The core mission of the Flavorists School is to empower individuals by providing comprehensive guidance and resources essential for them to embark on their journey of crafting flavors that resonate globally. Through this initiative, Juan envisions a future where Mexico’s rich amalgamation of flavors and talents can flourish on the world stage, enriching the global culinary sector with their unique creations.

A Journey Through Tradition and Innovation

Juan’s research has significantly influenced the market in Mexico, as he has delivered several collections of backstreet flavors created under the inspiration of Mexico’s traditions. These flavors, born in the streets of Mexico and published outside of Mexico as traditional flavors of Mexico, have garnered attention from local companies seeking to incorporate them into their offerings.

His native flavors are deeply rooted in Mexico’s history, drawing from the country’s rich cultural heritage. He explores native beverages such as tascalate and champurrado, as well as the history of vanilla, which dates back to the primitives who first discovered it. His research also digs into the use of herbs like quelite and epazote, which are integral to Mexico’s culinary identity.

Moreover, he highlights the varieties of plants and spices that are no longer in existence, such as liquochellas, beers with Chile mix and hot candies, guajolotes, and hot tamale lonche Mexicano. He also defines Chilaquiles Mexicanos, characterized by corn tortillas and green sauce, and discusses the different types of fire chiles, including habanero, Mulato pepper, and guajillo peppers, which are used in various Mexican sauces.

The great variety of tacos is another significant aspect of Juan’s research, showcasing the diversity and richness of Mexico’s culinary traditions. His work not only celebrates the flavors of Mexico but also serves as a testament to the country’s vivacious cultural heritage, which continues to inspire innovation and creativity in the culinary world.

Preserving Ancient Mexican Flavors

Juan’s fascination with native Mexican flavors stems from the profound connection they hold to the country’s opulent history and cultural heritage. The discovery of vanillin, cocoa, and chocolate by the Aztecs is a testament to the ingenuity and knowledge of these ancient people.

Unfortunately, many native plant species have become extinct, but Juan has dedicated himself to studying and preserving the unique flavors of these plants, ensuring their quality and deliciousness for future generations.

One such example is achiote, a Mexican spice that, like Morado corn, is a staple in traditional Mexican cuisine. The preparation of these flavors is an art form that requires great care and attention to detail, making each dish a true reflection of the culture’s culinary mastery. The use of green corn, for instance, adds a distinct flavor profile that is both delicious and unique.

Juan’s mission is not only to preserve these flavors but also to share them with the world. By submitting his creations globally, he hopes to not only educate people about the amusing cultural heritage of Mexico but also to inspire a new appreciation for the diversity of flavors that exist across the globe.

Global Influence of Native Flavors

Emphasizing that native flavors are a wellspring of inspiration for the food industry and nurturing the creation of innovative concepts, Juan highlighted that these indigenous tastes are utilized for popular Cinco de Mayo trends, crossing boundaries to captivate major international corporations such as General Foods and Mondelez International.

Even smaller enterprises acknowledge these flavors, infusing them into soft gels and confectioneries. The allure of hot tamales reverberates globally, igniting a wave of innovative culinary creations inspired by these traditional delicacies.

Overcoming Obstacles 

As a talented food scientist, Juan has faced a number of challenges in his research and development efforts. One of the primary hurdles he has had to overcome is presenting his distinctive flavor creations to discerning chefs for approval.

He explains, “The first challenge was to present the flavors to the chefs and get their approval on whether my developments truly captured the essence of the real foods.” This required a delicate balance, as he had to ensure his creations met the exacting standards of culinary experts while still maintaining the unique flair of his culinary vision.

Another significant obstacle he has overcome is the need to develop market-ready formulations. “We had to make sure we could produce these flavors on a larger scale and at a price point that would be viable for commercial production,” he notes. This process of scaling up and optimizing costs was crucial in transforming his laboratory successes into viable products.

Additionally, he has had to navigate the complexities of deriving new flavor profiles while simultaneously reducing production costs. “It was important that we could not only create unique and compelling flavors but also do so in a way that made them economically feasible for our target markets,” he explains. Through his tenacity, creativity, and deep understanding of the culinary background, he has been able to surmount these challenges and continue pushing the boundaries of flavor innovation.

The Art of Flavor Creation

Emphasizing the critical importance of the initial flavor molecules in crafting exact taste profiles within his creations, the approach is informed by a wealth of experience and guided by gas-liquid chromatography for volatile compound identification. Rooted in thorough preliminary studies and the complex chemistry of polymers, the process occasionally necessitates the extraction of vital components from native herbs, spices, and foods to enhance the depth of flavors under investigation.

Alternatively, Juan harnesses the power of reactions within the flavor matrix to expose novel molecules that underpin the essence of taste, thereby refining and harmonizing the ultimate flavor profile. His craft transcends mere culinary artistry, delving deep into the realm of flavor science to craft sensory experiences that captivate the palate and elevate the culinary landscape.

Balancing Tradition and Innovation

Juan’s approach to culinary composition is characterized by a subtle balance between the valuable flavors of traditional Mexican cuisine and the modern trends that shape the culinary domain. To achieve this harmony, he establishes clear priorities, acknowledging the significance of his cultural heritage while embracing innovation and transformation.

His inspiration stems from adapting traditional flavors to modern applications, often incorporating historical elements in innovative ways. For instance, he draws upon the ancient Mayan tradition of tascalate, an Indian cacao beverage from Oaxaca, Mexico. By modernizing this traditional drink, Juan transforms it into a frappuccino dessert infused with native flavors, blending the old with the new.

Another example of his fusion of tradition and innovation is his celebration of the Day of the Dead, where he incorporates the symbolic cempasúchil flower to create a flower cream flavor with a touch of Aztec tradition. Similarly, he applies historical flavors to modern desserts, such as using traditional flavors in ice cream, showcasing his ability to seamlessly merge the past with the present.

Expedition of Flavor Masking Innovation

In 1968, Juan made a remarkable discovery that would forever change the model of the soy milk industry. He revealed the first-ever flavor blocker, a groundbreaking innovation that effectively masked the undesirable notes inherent in soy-based beverages. This pioneering achievement paved the way for a new era of enhanced soy milk experiences, catering to the evolving preferences of consumers worldwide.

His creation was the result of extensive research and meticulous experimentation, driven by a relentless pursuit to elevate the sensory profile of soy milk. The flavor blocker, a witness to his ingenuity, successfully tackled the long-standing challenge of off-flavors, allowing the natural goodness of soy to shine through without any distracting or unpleasant undertones.

The impact of his innovation was felt across the industry, as his groundbreaking flavor blocker became the standard-bearer for soy milk manufacturers globally. The company he represented, renowned for its commitment to innovation, proudly showcased this revolutionary product, which quickly gained international acclaim and recognition.

In 2005, the company further solidified its position as a trailblazer by launching its first-ever pink grapefruit-flavored soy milk. This bold and refreshing offering, built upon the foundation of the earlier flavor blocker, captivated consumers with its delightful and unexpected flavor profile, setting a new benchmark in the soy milk market.

Advancing Plant-Based Flavors and Innovative Technologies

Playing a pivotal role in the flavor industry, where the focus has shifted towards plant-based flavors in modern times, Juan is deeply involved in researching and developing innovative solutions to replace animal products with plant-based alternatives. His work revolves around creating futuristic technologies that utilize reaction flavors, particularly leveraging the Maillard reactions for flavor development.

Within his academic setting, he dedicates significant effort to pushing the boundaries of flavor innovation. His role involves redefining traditional approaches to flavor creation, updating methodologies, and exploring novel ways to craft new and exciting flavors. Through his work, he aims to enhance creativity across a spectrum of flavors, blending innovation with technology to drive the industry forward.

Furthermore, Juan is committed to educating and empowering individuals in the field. He imparts knowledge on the theoretical foundations and practical applications of flavor technology, equipping others with the skills needed to navigate this versatile domain. By sharing his expertise and cultivating a culture of continuous learning, he contributes significantly to the advancement of flavor science and technology.

Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Juan, a seasoned culinary expert, shared his insightful advice on elevating the art of flavor creation. His words, imbued with a wealth of knowledge and experience, serve as a guiding light for those seeking to craft exceptional culinary masterpieces.

He emphasizes the importance of thoroughly researching the volatiles, or aromatic compounds, that define the flavor profile of the desired creation. By exploring the complexities of these volatile elements, one can gain a deeper understanding of the nuances that will shape the final product.

Studying the analysis of various fruit and dessert products is crucial, according to Juan. This comprehensive understanding of the raw materials and their inherent properties will inform the selection and combination of ingredients, ensuring a harmonious and balanced flavor profile.

He further encourages initiating the creative process with a diverse array of ingredients sourced from around the globe. By tapping into the vast array of raw materials available worldwide, one can discover a world of flavor possibilities and drive the boundaries of culinary innovation.

He advises starting the creation process with several distinct flavor iterations, each meticulously crafted. By presenting these variations to a panel of discerning tasters, one can gather valuable feedback and refine the recipe, ultimately achieving a flavor profile that captivates the senses.

The judicious use of extracts, derived from the very products being showcased, can further enhance the depth and authenticity of the flavor experience, as per his guidance. Incorporating these concentrated essences can elevate the overall sensory journey for the discerning palate.

By acknowledging his wisdom and following this comprehensive approach, aspiring culinary artists can embark on a gastronomic journey that exceeds the ordinary, crafting flavor experiences that leave a lasting impression on the senses.