Gerard Mosciano, '62: Impeccable Taste
December 16, 2011 by Lisa McMahon, MA'09
To us, it's a strawberry. But to Gerard Mosciano, '62, it's a complex mixture of more than 800 organic compounds that together contribute to a flavor that we perceive as the small, edible red fruit.
Jerry is a creative flavorist, a chemist who creates artificial and natural flavors. Keeping the end product in mind (which can include foods, beverages, confectioneries, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and nutritional products) he uses aromatic ingredients, botanical extracts, and essential oils to match its basic flavor profile and desired physical form. He compares the work to an artist who knows which paints to combine to create the exact color he is looking for.
“It's an art and it's a skill, but you have to know what the ingredients can do,” he says.
Jerry didn't plan to become a flavorist. When he graduated from Niagara with a natural science degree, he began working for the New Jersey Health Department as a food chemist. After a year he went to a technical placement company that placed him with International Flavors & Fragrances as an instrumental chemist. There, he performed analyses of the flavor ingredients in various food products.
For several years he commuted from his home in New Jersey to IFF's flavor laboratories in New York City, but as his family grew (he and his wife, Barbara Nebel, '62, have four children), his desire to spend more time at home grew with it. So he inquired about other positions within the company and, after proving that he had the appropriate skills, was given the opportunity to apprentice with a senior flavorist.
“A lot of people can taste, but there is a difference in the way my brain is wired,” he says.
Jerry studied for a total of seven years under the tutelage of his mentors before earning certification from the Society of Flavor Chemists and the title of senior flavorist in 1974. He then pursued a creative flavor career with a small company in Philadelphia where he says he got his first “real affirmation” that he could do the job. “It was me, a blotter, and a wall of bottles,” Jerry recalls. Without the assistance of a research and development department or analytical instruments, he created his first commercial flavor sale, a cherry used in hard candy. “It was my finest moment,” he says.
Since then, Jerry has fabricated thousands of flavors, a process that can take anywhere from a few hours to more than a year. After spending almost 40 years creating flavors for several flavor companies, Jerry established G. Mosciano Ltd. as an independent flavor consultant. He served as president of the Society of Flavor Chemists and of The Chemical Sources Association, and recently edited the book Successful Flavors.
Now retired, Jerry still consults on flavors, meeting with several senior creative flavorists for tastings each month, the results of which he uses in the monthly column he writes about the organoleptic characteristics of flavor materials for Allured Publications' Perfumer & Flavorist. He notes that people's perception of flavors is very subjective and has evolved over the years. Despite the consumer's changing tastes, what was true when Jerry began his career is true today: “The best flavor is the one that sells.”