For Dana McCauley to judge new creations on Food Network's Recipe to Riches was just the logical next step. Dana, a noted chef and author, is behind some of the best recipes at Janes Family Foods.
Recipe to Riches has home cooks competing for a chance to see their recipe become a President's Choice featured product in Loblaws across Canada.
Dana enjoys how Recipe to Riches "takes creative focus and brings it to the business front" each week. Being able to highlight the will to try new things is another aspect that she enjoys about being part of the television series. Dana said that this season the judges didn't see as many applicants who thought that being part of the business side of food was to use already prepackaged food in a new way as during the first season. What Dana did see was a trend of bacon and chocolate. "I hope I never have to eat bacon coated in chocolate again! I think there were at least three to five people a day during the auditions that had some type of bacon and chocolate idea. Novelty food is just that. Let's keep it at the fairs," Dana laughed when asked about what was the worse trend she has seen this year. Crossing Canada and getting a chance to taste what people are making at their own homes was one of her personal highlights so far this season.
Dana's passion for the show, her position at Janes, food and life in general was sounded out during a telephone interview. Dana started out as a chef before getting into the front lines of the food business world. She started writing recipes that caught the eye of some of Canada's top magazines who sought her out to become a food editor. She has written for Canadian Living, Chatelaine, Canadian House & Home, Gardening Life, Style at Home, Homemakers and others. She also has over 15 cookbooks under her belt either as the author or as a consultant.
Today people are much more aware of food than when she started writing in the 1990's. "I think it's a positive that we are more aware. The trends are moving quickly. In the 90's there wasn't a lot to write about. Today with chefs, food writers and everyday people there is so much information going out. The cycle has gotten so much faster," Dana explained, "Take the Akins Diet for example. So many companies geared their foods towards the Akins Diet and then it was over before the products were ready to start. Akins was great though for explaining the need for protein in our diets. Protein fills us up. The trend of Greek yogurt wouldn't be here now if it wasn't for the Akins Diet."
Dana has been behind some of the best pre-packaged food in Canada. When Janes Foods came calling three years ago to hire her as the Culinary Director at Janes Family Foods she knew it would be a "really cool opportunity." Dana truly enjoys her job at Janes. She confided that she loves seeing people pick up products at the grocery that she has been a part of, "They are like my babies. I love seeing that people really do enjoy them!"
Dana understands the need of having food ready to go quickly in this fast paced world we live in. "I love good food but it takes time to cook a lovely meal every night. Cooking a meal to share with others is a way to show you really like someone." With the products that she has been part of cooking a lovely meal for the family doesn't always mean cooking for hours. A quick meal where the family sits together to connect is important. "I often eat lunch at my desk. It saddens me that we are going so fast in our lives that we don't take that time. It's important to pause for dinner. If there was one trend I would like to stop it would be that 'fast eating' attitude."
As a mom of a teenage son she also wants that the food she's part of to be a healthy alternative. Gone are the days of tinfoil oven dinners that didn't delight the palate. Today's convenience food often tastes almost like you're slaved for hours at the oven.
When it comes to her own philosophy for family eating Dana leans to the French attitude of "you don't have to like it but you do have to at least try it." The philosophy has worked, her son enjoys all types of food and isn't afraid to try new things. "As a person cooking is just as important to teach our children as learning how to swim or manage a cheque book. It's the basics of life."
She is also an avid gardener who jokes that her tomatoes would cost "$40 dollars an hour to produce" from the time she sets aside to tend to them. Dana says that gardening is a great way to really connect to local food culture and the understanding of the cost of food. "It's just common sense but we can become so removed from the way food gets to our table. Gardening shows what it takes to make our food, the hard work and nurturing that goes into that piece of produce you're about to eat."
Dana is also passionate about sustainable fish and seafood initiatives and Second Harvest Food Bank.
Dana loves her jobs, which is a good thing as she works non-stop. "My job has a lot of elements of my favorite hobby. I am so lucky!"
Recipe to Riches season two premieres on the Food Network October 17 at 9pm ET. Check out as Dana and the other judges narrow down which recipe from amateur Canadian cooks will become the newest addition to the President's Choice brand!