The Eggplant That Changed My Life

An eggplant pushed me into the wonderful chaos of food entrepreneurship

It is a cross-bread of several native Vietnamese eggplants, Bernard from FoodPairing told me. When I had a bite of that eggplant I was shocked. It’s light floral and citrusy notes blended perfectly with the buttery mouthfeel and an umami aftertaste.

I realized the transformative potential in food

After 35 years of living I never experienced that plants could taste so amazing. At that moment, I realized the transformative potential in food and decided to dedicate my career to improve the food supply chain.

My journey started 1 year ago by starting where we are now 7 full-time people who try to re-think cooking with artificial intelligence.

FoodGrads Plant Jammer

I never planned to work with food. I spent my career’s first 2 years in Merrill Lynch, London, trading futures of soy, corn, and wheat. Already then, I realized how much water, energy and feed are needed to create 1 kg of meat, I personally decided to go vegetarian for that reason. After Merrill Lynch I spent another 3 years in McKinsey as a consultant for big companies in food, agriculture and energy sectors. I thought I was going to work with large corporates for the rest of my life.

However, that changed during my last 3 years in industrial biotech (Novozymes) working on feed additives that assist animal farming to become more efficient. It occurred to me that no matter how efficient animal farming gets, it is always going to be 80% more resource efficient to eat plants. Hence, a plant-based diet can improve global sustainability dramatically.

But how do we make people eat plants?

When I tasted that eggplant with Bernard, I got curious: Why do most eggplants not taste like that? The answer is simple: Food retailers have commoditized vegetables, meaning that the only differentiator between two eggplants today is price. This makes it easy for retailers to manage the supply chain and retain bargaining power. The result is that eggplant farming is optimized for yield rather than taste. With Plant Jammer we want to change that dynamic and bring back taste!

So, how to do that? In Plant Jammer we use the latest and greatest in Artificial Intelligence to analyse flavour of 3 million online recipes and build a flavour landscape of ingredients like this one:

FoodGrads Plant Jammer

Armed with this new understanding of flavour we can help everyday cooks make amazing foods on Plant Jammer.

Let us take eggplant as a case study: If I want to re-experience the floral, citrusy, umami experience of the eggplant I presented in the beginning, I can use the flavour landscape available on Plant Jammer. After a bit of number crunching, I realize that coriander seeds can bring the citrus flavors while pomegranate can bring floral notes. To get the umami aftertaste I can add some tamari or oyster sauce to the sesame-oil that I splash on the eggplant.

Finally, to get to the buttery texture I need to devise a process that heats the eggplant slowly from within. So I add salt 10 minutes early, dry the eggplant and put it in the oven for a long time (40-60 minutes). This worked perfectly and the taste was divine, but I also noticed some bitter afternotes – if the food chain could only give me a better eggplant we could have done wonders!

Shaking things up!

My vision is to make it really easy to play with taste and cook well with Then people will start appreciating a good eggplant over a bad one. Later we can connect users directly with quality farm produce. As a result, we will see a market pull for better eggplants, carrots, zucchinis etc.

Finally the farmers will be paid for quality rather than quantity!

Author: Michael Haase – CEO & Founder of

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