John Panaro has learned a lot about food. He studied and experienced its chemistry, found out how it can nourish, heal or even compromise the human body, and how it can seduce the nose and melt even the strongest hearts. He came to appreciate how important flavor is to the masses. He was taught by experts how to apply flavor-enhancing ingredients and techniques to food preparations when he attended and graduated The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York.
Prior to attending the CIA, John had food marketing experience planning and driving an integrated marketing campaign for Genisoy Food Products, a soy consumer products manufacturer (soy protein bars, shakes, soy milk powder, and soy nuts). As marketing director, he designed and coordinated marketing communications that successfully targeted women (mothers: ages 25 – 55) and health professionals (heart doctors and nutrition experts) by focusing on the FDA-approved heart-health claim for soy that was approved in the fall of 1999.
John broke into the food and culinary research field as a Research Chef Intern at the food science and culinary development facility of International Flavors & Fragrances in Dayton, New Jersey in 2007. He helped create food and beverage solutions for foodservice and retail customers by adding the company’s flavors to a variety of food products – both savory and sweet. Examples include meat and poultry applications (e.g., dry rubs and marinades), flavored coffee beverages, chicken sauces, and soups. John participated in client presentations and developed and prepared culinary gold standards for chemists to analyze and flavorists to reproduce. He worked with specialized equipment like Combi ovens, sheeters, spray-coating drums, and vacuum marinade tumbler systems and used many cooking techniques to showcase culinary trends.
John moved from New York to Lafayette, Louisiana for a Food Scientist/Product Development Formulator position in 2009 at The Wright Group, a company specializing in the formulation of custom, vitamin/mineral/botanical premixes prepared for clients to blend into commercial food and beverage products. The premixes allowed clients like Kellogg, General Mills, Slimfast, Hain Celestial and Odwalla to meet declared nutrition label claims. Applications included fortified cereal, nutrition bars, and juice and energy drinks. Also, John developed a low-sodium baking powder for a client.
John created an entrepreneurial opportunity by starting Anne’s Table, a healthy gourmet restaurant in downtown Lafayette, Louisiana in 2013. It was at Anne’s he planned, created, and ran a healthy dine-in/take-out restaurant based on the “Healthy Eating Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” He developed the recipes for all menu items that catered to flexitarians (plant-based but include meat and fish), Vegetarians, Vegans, and gluten-free customers, and posted a comprehensive nutrition analysis of each menu item online and in print in the dining room.
John started Panaro Food Innovations in 2018 after creating a new consumer food product based on the natural addition of nutrients via whole foods. Sweet Smart is a better-for-you, liquid sweetener made from concentrated fruit and vegetable juices, Chicory Root, spices and the rare sugar Allulose. John entered Sweet Smart in the Food Spark Culinary Grant program sponsored by the Lafayette Economic Development Authority (LEDA) and the Acadiana Food Hub in partnership with the Opportunity Machine and the Acadiana Food Alliance. He was one of several winners, which consequently funded the creation of Panaro Food Innovations LLC.
John has a Masters degree in nutrition from Boston University, a Bachelors degree in chemistry and biology from Curry College, and an Associates degree in culinary arts from the Culinary Institute of America. He’s a member of the Research Chefs Association and the Institute of Food Technologists where he was editor of the Northern California Chapter Newsletter, “The Hornblower” from 1995-2000. His first career was an environmental chemist for the Environmental Protection Agency’s SUPERFUND Program in the New England region.