Everything I’ve Learned as a Professional Food Taster

Today is my final day.

That’s right, your ol’ pal DP is leaving Sporked. To do what, exactly? I’m not sure yet. But, it sure has been a hell of a year working for the good folks at Mythical. I made a bunch of new friends, tried all kinds of new snacks, and I went to the bathroom so, so many times (cue the sad music montage of me running to the bathroom).

One of the biggest reasons I took this job was because I saw an opportunity to learn. I come from the world of restaurants and cooking, so learning what goes into our favorite snacks, how they’re made, and what modern grocery stores are up to excited me. I took this job as an opportunity to broaden my skill set. Plus, not for nothin’, Mythical is chock full of people who taste test for a living, so naturally I’ve had dozens of interesting conversations around the office about food and what makes our favorite foods tick. Anyway, I thought that I’d share everything I’ve gleaned in the last year as a guy who eats and writes about food for a living.

Soy Sauce Powder Is the Magic Ingredient

And it’s in a lot of our favorite foods. Those spicy sweet chili Doritos many of you are ardent fans of? They contain soy sauce powder. Our far-and-away number one favorite beef jerky brand, Old Trapper, contains soy sauce powder in some of its products, too. It’s also in French onion dip. Like MSG, soy sauce powder adds detectable traces of umami. It’s what makes some of our favorite foods so damn mouth-smackingly savory. The salty, meaty attributes of soy sauce powder are wonderful. Start reading the labels in the snack aisle—if it’s got soy sauce powder, it’s probably pretty good. And if it has MSG and soy sauce powder, you’ve likely got a banger of a snack on your hands.

Diet Coke Is a Great Palate Cleanser

Though I wouldn’t be caught dead drinking the stuff otherwise, Diet Coke serves as a great palate cleanser when you’ve got a full slate of taste testing. Palate cleansing is such an important part of this job, especially when you’re tasting things that tend to linger in your mouth like olive oil. Diet Coke is full of unnatural flavors and acidity, so it really works when you’re trying to completely wash your mouth of the previous thing you just ate. If you’re really trying to get to the bottom of how different brands and products are nuanced, keep some Diet Coke on hand and take sips in between bites.

Sweatpants Are Clutch

Honestly, I can’t believe I wore jeans to this job for the first six months I worked here. At Sporked, there’s a lot of eating, and tasting, and then more eating, and it can weigh you down. At a certain point, I got sick of sitting at my desk uncomfortably, so one day I put on some sweatpants. It was a game changer. When I liberated myself from the oppressive combination of a belt and pants, I became much more relaxed around the office. I guess this is a merch plug, but the joggers I got from Mythical’s store are among the most comfortable I’ve ever worn. If you’re going to be taste testing food, you might as well be comfortable. Put on some sweatpants.

Walmart Is Good, for Better or Worse 

During our taste tests here at Sporked, we were collectively shocked that things from Walmart ranked high and tasted pretty damn good. We really liked Great Value’s bite sized tortilla chips. And Walmart’s frozen pepperoni pizza and their cheese pizza are favorites around the office. Even their frozen cheese ravioli ranked number  three in our best ravioli ranking. Why do they consistently taste good? My theory is that Walmart isn’t overly concerned with being a healthy option, so they include more sodium and fat in their products. I realized this during the stovetop mac and cheese taste test, in which I noticed the Walmart brand box recommends you add twice as much butter as their competitors. Personally, that’s how I make mac at home. Also, that mac and cheese costs 43 cents. 43!! I understand the appeal of Walmart a lot more now than when I started at Sporked.

About the Author

Danny Palumbo

Danny is a comedian, cook, and food writer living in Los Angeles. He loves gas station eggs, canned sardines, and Easter candy. He also passionately believes that all the best chips come from Pennsylvania (Herr's!). If you can't understand Danny when he talks, it's because he's from Pittsburgh.