Looking at the back of your favorite prepackaged snack, you’d be forgiven if you couldn’t decipher whether or not you were eating trail mix or a pile of paint chips. With the amount of additives, chemicals, and preservatives that we ingest daily, maybe the latter is the more nutritious choice. So with all of the junk food out there, Australian-born Adam Melonas, founder of Chew-Lab, an innovative forthcoming “food laboratory” in Cambridge, could prove to be the light at the end of our dismal culinary tunnel.
A chef for 18 years, Melonas was “bitten by the consumer packaged goods bug about 7 or 8 years ago,” a move that surprised him because in the culinary world, engaging in CPG is considered to be a “sell out” move. Nonetheless, Melonas intends to “democratize” food and make a positive impact by “reversing everything that does people and the planet unnecessary harm.” His vision involves healthy products stocked from corner stores to supermarkets, giving consumers the opportunity to eat with less risk of averse effects. To bring this about, innovation, and not compromising taste and craft, will be key. Melonas is hoping to squash the hypocrisy in the food industry, creating food that “would feed to his own kids,” a sentiment he picked up from a food vendor the first day he moved to Spain that has stuck with him throughout his career.
Chew-Lab sports a large illuminated carrot on its façade, leaving passerbys curious about the space. It’s an homage to their ability to see food as food, and not just a commodity. Melonas says, “I could make you a dish out of a carrot that you will remember for the rest of your life for 40 cents, verses luxury cooking, going out and finding the best white truffles. Of course I will make a great dish, but you won’t remember it in three weeks. But you will remember [a] carrot dish [for which] somebody tried to understand the carrot.”
Melonas’ outlook on non-tree-bark-tasting eco-conscious food is a challenge that he has fully embraced. Although the lab won’t be open to the public, the goal here is to engage the abundance of prestigious local universities, and a community of local farmers. And within a year, they’ll offer pop-up dinners to receive unbiased public opinion, adding high-octane levels of food excellence crafted by Melonas and his hand-selected chefs and food scientists.
So if you’re walking down Western Ave and you see the carrot, you might be able to catch a glimpse of Melonas passionately innovating your next potential food source. Until then, be sure to bob and weave next time the junk food munchies start throwing hunger haymakers at you.