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Custom Culinary Inc.: Blending True Tastes for Professional Kitchens
Custom Culinary Inc. (Custom Culinary) is a leading manufacturer of culinary products for the foodservice industry in the United States and internationally. The Illinois-based company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Griffith Laboratories, a global player in food ingredients. Custom Culinary has been in business for over 65 years, which is a testament to the service the team provides.
“I have been in the food service industry all of my life,” says T.C. Chatterjee, president of Custom Culinary, adding that he has been with the company for a decade. “In the last 10 years or so, we’ve evolved from essentially a private-label company to a leading brand in foodservice. We went through an entire brand and business evolution process.”
Custom Culinary employs around 200 people in the United States, and even more abroad. “We have two manufacturing facilities and research and development facilities in Illinois and Ohio,” says Chatterjee of the U.S. locations. “We’ve expanded internationally, too. Most of the locations are sales and distribution points, but Custom Culinary products are also made in international manufacturing facilities such as in Spain and India.”
According to Chatterjee, Custom Culinary’s continued success comes from its building blocks of the company’s people, brand, culinary expertise and innovation. Custom Culinary’s processes blend culinary art with food science to provide authentic culinary flavors through the company’s sauces, gravies and soup bases to professional kitchens around the world.
A focus on culinary expertise is, according to Chatterjee, the key philosophy for the success of the business. “Culinary is in our name, and that’s our cornerstone,” he explains. “We attempt to integrate culinary expertise into every part of the business.”
Custom Culinary’s product development team consists of a team of accomplished chefs and food scientists. “Mike Lonteen, our vice president of retail and development, is a certified executive chef and a qualified food scientist,” explains Chatterjee. “Mike and his team are perfect examples of what the industry now knows as “culinologists.” They combine food science with culinary artistry that’s translated through from product development to how our products are made in the factory.”
Keeping with the focus on culinary expertise, Custom Culinary’s sales team has in-depth experience and knowledge of the foodservice industry. “All of our salespeople have a culinary orientation,” explains Chatterjee. This industry expertise combined with quality products provides the key to meeting customers’ needs and adding value to business. “Our objective is to make our customers successful and enable our customers’ innovation,” says Chatterjee.
Sensibly Authentic is one of the company’s most recent product lines, where the Custom Culinary team has designed products with healthy, natural ingredients without compromising on the flavor delivery.
Custom Culinary is catering to foodservice demand for healthy options that do not compromise taste. Sensibly Authentic offers all-natural soup bases with reduced sodium and a range of low-sodium gluten-free gravy mixes; more restaurants are offering gluten-free options as the demand for gluten-free food rises around the globe.
According to Chatterjee, the business is on a path of steady growth. “We’re expanding our scope,” he explains. “We’re expanding our capabilities, our product range and the solutions we’re able to provide. We can do a lot more now than we could even a few years ago.”
Chatterjee continues to detail that the key to stable growth is in knowing where to focus and what to avoid. The bulk of Custom Culinary’s business remains in the United States, but the company strategically expanded across the globe to areas that present the company with growth opportunities through meeting customers’ needs. “The benefit of having a global footprint is the ability for us to bring authentic flavors and cuisine interpretations from around the world and incorporate them into products we offer to our customers domestically,” he continues.
Domestically, the company provides products to independent foodservice establishments, chain operations that are regional and national in scope, and also to customers in the industrial space. “We have a broad range of products that are designed to meet a broad range of customer needs,” says Chatterjee. The company’s success has led to recent expansions to U.S. facilities. “We just broke ground on the expansion of our Avon, Ohio, facility,” he says. “When the project is complete, Avon’s capacity and capabilities will increase significantly.”
Of course, the management team at Custom Culinary measures success on a number of variables. “From an external standpoint, we measure success by how well we are able to meet our customers’ expectations,” explains Chatterjee. “It’s important to us that we stay relevant to the needs of our customers.”
Custom Culinary aims to provide authentic culinary flavor systems to operations that prepare food served away from home. “Our products are designed to add flavor to all parts of a professional kitchen’s menu,” says Chatterjee. “We’re not looking to replace the role of the chef, but to make the chef’s job easier. Our role is to enhance the culinary expertise of a kitchen staff by offering solutions to our customer, the professional food service operator.” Through a focused approach, the team lives up to the Custom Culinary Inc. name, by offering authentic culinary flavor systems to the foodservice industry.