Dishing it with McCormick's top chef

McCormick Canada culinary whiz Michael Cloutier portions out his everyday

Michael Cloutier is McCormick Canada's executive chef. He’s been with the flavour-enhancement maker for 10 years and works with its foodservice, industrial and retail divisions, helping to launch new products under names such as Club House and McCormick Gourmet.

Right after his name on Cloutier’s business card, it reads “C.C.C.” That means Cloutier is a certified chef de cuisine, one of the highest certifications a chef can earn in Canada.

Before joining McCormick in Mississauga, Ont., Cloutier did stints at Prime Restaurants, Cara and upscale golf club operator ClubLink. He also spent three years working in Switzerland at luxury hotels including Beau Rivage and Lausanne Palace. Here’s what he’s got on his plate.

Recipe development
A big part of Cloutier’s job is devising recipes that feature new products from McCormick. Meant to give consumers meal inspiration, these recipes deliberately require few ingredients (usually six or seven) and can be prepared in just four or five steps, he says. “We try to think of what’s in a person’s pantry and fridge so they don’t have to make a bunch of purchases.”

Prediction trends
Cloutier is part of a team that’s constantly on the hunt for the latest regional and international food trends. They scour everything from menus to magazine articles to spot the trends that end up in the annual “McCormick Flavour Forecast.” Cloutier also creates recipes that incorporate the trends from each year’s forecast, which he then presents to the company’s customers so they can taste them first-hand.

Setting the standard
Cloutier supports McCormick’s food scientists and developers as they create products. If they’re working on a dry mix of minestrone soup, Cloutier will produce a “gold standard”–the best version of that soup from a chef’s perspective–to learn its overall taste balance. Those same ingredients can then be used in the dry mix.

Sensory and product evaluation
Taking part in product-tasting panels is an ongoing part of Cloutier’s job. He recently tested a sriracha-flavoured dry snack seasoning to see how the flavor of something that’s typically a sauce translates into a dry food. Taste testing is also important as McCormick re-evaluates its formulas to meet consumer demands around sodium reduction and removal of artificial flavours and colours.

Product development
Cloutier helps the sales team by developing products for McCormick’s food manufacturer customers. He works with food scientists and uses the “Flavour Forecast” to help put a twist on a food that may already be part of consumers’ diets. For example, if the team is creating products for a large poultry producer, it may suggest a coating with a blend of peppers to keep in line with the “chillies obsession” trend referenced in last year’s forecast. The trend is evident in the heat found in hot sauces such as sriracha.

Representing McCormick in the community
Cloutier’s job continues outside the office. For example, he’s been a judge at the Chef’s Challenge event at the Taste of Toronto food festival for the past couple of years, as part of McCormick’s involvement with the festival’s charity partner, Second Harvest.

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