Dan Zakri is Senior Director of Innovation at Sandridge Food Corp., with responsibility for product development of world-class soups, sauces, salads, side dishes and fully cooked proteins for customers in food service, retail, commissary and e-commerce.
Zakri, grew up in Syracuse, NY, and learned to cook from his mother and grandmother. He knew he wanted to work in a professional kitchen by the time he was in high school.
After graduating in 1995 from the Culinary Institute of America with a degree in culinary arts, Zakri served as executive sous chef at the Trellis Restaurant in Williamsburg, Va., under James Beard Award-winning chef and best-selling cookbook author Marcel Desaulniers.
He followed that experience with roles as an executive chef for a large contract food service and a retail grocery company, and operated a meal production business in partnership with Dr. Michael Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer from the Cleveland Clinic and developer of the Real Age nutrition and wellness program. (Amazon)
Sandridge hired Zakri in 2006 as an R&D chef. He has helped lead its expansion from the salads segment to the whole plate – including grains soups, sauces and fully cooked proteins. He helped integrate sous vide production capabilities; and before that he played a central role in the company’s early adoption of High Pressure Processing (HPP) to increase shelf life, reduce bacteria and eliminate chemicals and additives.
“It was an exciting time. We knew the potential for HPP was there, but at the time, nobody else was using it the way we wanted to,” Zakri says. “So we spent a year experimenting, putting as much food through it as we could and learning as we went. From a culinary standpoint, it reinvented my approach to food.”
More recently, Zakri has focused on what he refers to as culinary joint business planning – integrating Sandridge’s unique set of capabilities into the strategic plans of key customers.
Zakri has served as an active member of the Research Chefs Association, National Restaurant Association, International Dairy Deli Bakery Association, Cold Pressure Council and Institute of Food Technologists.
He lives in Medina, Ohio, with his wife Alisha, two teenage children, three cats and a pair of retired racing greyhounds. He’s a drummer in a rock and blues band, and is passionate about live theater and the arts.
“Playing music, watching a play – there’s a pace to these that I can relate to working in a kitchen,” he says. “I like watching people who are really good at what they do.”