Local Family-Owned Company Hosts Lexington Students For An Insider’s View Of Entrepreneurship And High-End Food Products
Beth Nielsen of Nielsen-Massey, a Waukegan based company famous for their high quality vanilla extract, welcomed Lexington students to her demo kitchen and factory on Friday, October 25th. Nielsen and her two brothers are third generation owners of the hundred and six year old company.
Pastry Chef-Instructor Cheryl Brookhouzen organized the outing. The students had the chance to taste Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, Tahitian vanilla, Indonesian vanilla and Mexican vanilla. “I was surprised how different each one looked, smelled and tasted,” reported Maria Miranda (Class of 2015, from Michigan), “ and I never knew that vanilla is indigenous to Mexico.”
Nielsen is a super-taster, which helps her identify the various flavor components of different vanillas. She works with chefs to identify which vanilla, or other pure natural flavors her company produces, such as pure orange extract or rose water, will best complement the flavors of the chefs’ recipe. She particularly likes to work with vanilla in savory dishes. She uses it in red sauces to tone down the acidity while elevating the natural tomato and garlic flavors. “What many people don’t know,” says Nielsen, “is that vanilla, like salt, is not only a flavor on its own, but it also enhances other flavors.” Next week, she is off to the James Beard House in New York City where she will educate chefs on how high quality vanilla can enhance their dishes.