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Food science students savor prize with saucy 'Squashetti'

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John Carberry
Squashetti product
Satisfy your hunger with Squashetti, the 2013 winner of the IFT product development competition.
Cornell's Squashetti product development team savors a winning moment. Top row, from left: Olivia Weihe, Wanyu Li, Rebecca Magona, Alex Brown, Kyle Clark and Katie Strickland. Bottom row, from left: Jo Yang, Shan Huang and Claire Zoellner.

Think chicken pomodoro pasta with a twist, but instead of pasta, the succulent strands of spaghetti are actually squash.

Created by Cornell food science students, the culinary creation Squashetti won the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Student Association product development competition, sponsored by Mars Inc., at the IFT annual meeting in Chicago, held July 13-16. Cornell took the top prize for the second year in a row.

Led by Richard Kyle Clark ’14 and Katherine Strickland ’14, the Cornell team beat national finalists – Kansas State University, Michigan State University, North Carolina State University, Ohio State University and the University of Wisconsin, Madison – for the product development honors. The Cornell team also includes: Alex Brown ’14; Shan Huang ’14; Susana Jimenez ’15; Rebecca Mangona ’14; Olivia Weihe ’13; Jo Yang ’15; Wanyu Li, MPS ’13; and Claire Zoellner, doctoral student in the field of food science.

Nutritious, convenient and gluten-free – with about one-sixth of the calories of a regular pasta dish – the new gastronomic delight ticks many boxes on consumer wish lists. Squashetti is less filling and tastes great, with a “better-than-spaghetti” base that showcases the pomodoro sauce flavors, says Clark. Before settling on Squashetti, the Cornell team considered chocolate ravioli and peanut butter hummus.

The team was evaluated for quality, originality, profitability, engineering, processing and marketing. “Across the board, this project really applies to everything we’re learning as food science majors,” said Mangona. “It’s a great experience, especially if you’re looking to go into the food industry.”

Cornell earned the top IFT prize last year with “Dough TEMPtations.”  The team won for “Wrapidos” in 1998, “Stir-Ins” in 1996 and “Pizza Pop-Ups” in 1995.

In other Cornell IFT highlights:

  • Another Cornell product development team, led by Juliana Canale ’13 and graduate student Diane Schmitt ’11, earned honorable mention for their product “Fright Fuel,” in the Disney Nutritious Food For Kids competition. Fright Fuel, designed as a food tie-in to the new Disney film “Monsters University,” is a shelf-stable combination pack of apple cinnamon hummus and whole-grain crackers. The Fright Fuel team members also include Lauren Musumeci, M.S. ’13; Lauren Thomas, M.S. ’13; and doctoral student Claudia Pazlopez ’12.
  • Cornell students – Brittany Miller ’13 (captain); Juliana Canale ’13; Abby Harrison ’13; Susanna Kahn, M.S. ’13; Dillon Murray ’13; Tim O’Boyle ’13; Lenita Silvera ’13; Michael Freund ’14; and doctoral students Michael Adams and Dongjun Zhao – defeated the University of California, Davis, to win the IFT Student Association College Bowl.
  • Michael Freund ’14 also won a third-place award as part of food science video competition.
  • Ashim Datta, professor of biological and environmental engineering, was named an IFT fellow for research that integrates physics, chemistry and microbiology in food processes.
  • Martin Wiedmann, professor of food science, was also named an IFT fellow for research into the origins, transmission and detection of the food-borne pathogen Listeria.
  • Olga Padilla-Zakour, associate chair and associate professor of food science, received the 2013 Elizabeth Fleming Stier Award for promoting new food businesses and economic development in New York, through her work as director of the Northeast Center for Food Entrepreneurship.

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Blaine Friedlander