I had an awesome time with Sunset Produce at the 90th annual Canadian Produce Marketing Association convention in Montreal April 15-17. I had the chance to meet fans who reached out to me at the show and I also had a nice visit from Mary Blackmon of The Produce News. I showed her to to make the tasty Tomato Trio Sandwich using those delicious gems from none other than Sunset Produce.
My grandfather left China in the early 1900’s to find a better life in the Caribbean, he was actually looking for El Dorado and got stranded in the Trinidad but that’s another story. Like many immigrants to a new land with limited knowledge of the local language, he worked hard, saved harder and lived a level of frugality that most of us wouldn’t begin to consider. After a while he opened his own grocery store, followed by a bakery, then followed by a restaurant. My father and all of his siblings have been in the food and beverage industry in a variety of forms for most of their lives as well, continuing the path trail blazed by their father.
Now I am the third consecutive generation of Mooking’s continuing the family tradition; it is something I take very seriously. Working for a living and building a career is an incredible challenge that many of us undertake to feed our families with varying degrees of passion. Working under the shadow of family tradition and bearing the legacy of one’s lineage takes the necessity of earning a living and makes it a compulsion. After teaming up with SUNSET®, I quickly learned that this is something that Paul Mastronardi and I have in common (amongst our mutual love of great music and delicious food). The family-owned company has passed down the love of food and flavor amongst four generations.
There is a sense of responsibility, accountability and pride that cannot be expressed with any kind of simplicity. I like to think that the responsibility of carrying the family torch grows deeper and more meaningful with each achievement and anniversary of previous landmarks.
This month we celebrate, with the SUNSET® family, the 20th birthday of the Campari® brand cocktail tomato - the world’s first branded tomato. Celebrating 20 years of flavor is more than marking a date on the calendar; it is an ongoing celebration of a family commitment, a marker in a long line of family achievements, a cornerstone of the future of a great legacy and a reminder of the pride and responsibility that this double decade landmark holds.
I am proud to be a part of this moment with the Mastronardi/SUNSET® family. Congratulations, I am looking forward to the next big celebration!
On a daily basis folks stop me in the grocery store, on the streets, or while I’m at the gym to ask me, “where do you get the inspiration for your recipes?” After being around the food world for a couple of decades and learning from Chefs from all parts of the world, it comes down to what is freshest when I go to the grocery. There are a few tricks in my tool kit but they are all rendered useless if the products I’m working with aren’t of the best quality.
So, I'm very excited to announce that I have been working with the Sunset team to develop a bunch of recipes using their amazing goodies, do some cool events with them, and generally shout their praises. I met Paul Mastronardi, El Presidente of SUNSET®, about a year ago on a tour of their greenhouses and facilities in Kingsville, Ontario; to say that I was blown away would be an understatement. Paul and everyone on the team are so passionate about every aspect of their operation. It’s that rare kind of excitement I so seldom get to witness first hand; it is a very inspiring thing.
First the sheer scale of the greenhouse facility is so vast. We rode around in a golf cart going up and down the aisles, trying all kinds of tomatoes straight off the vine. Many of the tomatoes I tried, I learned later, were strictly under development and although mind blowing, may still not be good enough to see the light of a grocery store. We drove around an entire greenhouse the size of what must have been a couple football fields, and this was just the development space – real dedication.
Hearing of Paul’s travel schedule, which is mostly dedicated to seeking the next best thing, proved once again the level of commitment to excellence that this company has. I was sucked in and incredibly inspired not only by the great stuff that passed my lips that day (Cucumbers, Sweet Peppers, Tomatoes) but also by walking through the various buildings and feeling the pride from every single member of the team.
Inspiration is infectious and I’m incredibly excited to share some of the recipes I’ve been working on with the Sunset crew. Stick around; its gonna be a fun ride.