Tracy Scala - Corporate Sensory Manager
What was your job before you worked at Amy’s?
I owned a restaurant before Amy’s. My restaurant was named Scala’s, which specialized in Southern Italian cuisine. It was located in Graton, California a small hamlet located in west Sonoma County, only about 15 minutes from the Amy’s Santa Rosa plant.
How long have you been working at Amy’s?
I’ve been with Amy’s for over four years now.
What is your current job at Amy’s?
My current job is, Corporate Sensory Manager, essentially I am responsible for overseeing the quality standards of our raw materials all the way through to the finished product from a sensory perspective. Sensory to us means everything having to do with taste, smell and appearance. Sensory at Amy’s is very important, since we don’t have a traditional advertising budget the quality of our products must be exceptional at all times. Our food is our advertising.
Explain the work you did prior to your work in Sensory.
Prior to working in Sensory, I was a Project Manager in Technical Services. This meant I was responsible for all of the technical input and approval of the Amy’s food package labeling…determining the nutritional analysis, proof reading and editing, verifying nutritional claims, that sort of thing. It was a fun and challenging job, which I learned a lot from.
What are the challenges?
The challenges and rewards are many at Amy’s. Andy often says, “Amy’s is like a big restaurant, not a highly mechanized food company”. Can you imagine firing (restaurant lingo for “cooking”) 500,000 meals a day in a restaurant? That’s how many meals we make a day in our Santa Rosa and Medford facilities. We have such high standards and our food is truly hand made, which means many hands and eyes are on all parts of the process. Traditional food companies use pipes, fillers and machinery to process their food. We hand roll burritos and tamales, hand shape pizzas and tortillas, we hand mix a lot of things because it delivers better flavor and texture. People are a critical ingredient to why our food is so special, but as we all know with people sometimes com e mistakes. We do our best to minimize those mistakes, but no one is perfect. We have a very complex process as you might have already imagined already, which keeps me, and my team constantly on our toes.
Why is it difficult to work with hand made products?
There are inconsistencies in hand made products. It’s something you just can’t avoid. We’ve all experienced it, you try a recipe out at home and it turns out great. Then you invite your friends over to cook them a wonderful meal and it just isn’t as good as the first time, you try it on another occasion and it’s great again. Not only do we have the challenge of working with hand made products, but we also have the challenge of working with natural and organic ingredients. We do not use food stabilizers or emulsifiers, like maltodextrin, flavor enhancers, like MSG, dough conditioners or any modified foods. These types of food additives produce more consistent predictable products and that’s why large food companies use them. However, they do not produce clean, healthy, delicious and fulfilling food like Amy’s.
Tell me about your relationship with Stormy?
Andy refers to me as Stormy’s "office mom", because when she comes to the office I get the incredible privilege of looking after her. She is such a sweet and smart dog, she's amazing. I’m always very busy, so when Stormy comes it’s a big treat because it forces me to get out and take a walk. I like to think Stormy and I have a special relationship, she’s like my dog surrogate.
What do your kids think about their mom working at Amy’s?
My three girls are proud I work at Amy’s. Since their primary years were pretty much growing up in our restaurant, Amy’s feels very familial to them as well. Right after they met Amy a few years ago, they all asked in unison, “could Amy babysit us?” It was pretty cute. I think the highlight was last year though, when we had “Bring your Kid’s to Work Day”, and they got to go on an official tour of the plant. Their favorite part was building a pallet of finished cases. Who knows maybe they’ll work at Amy’s one day? They certainly love the food and the people!
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
I like to walk down town with my girls or bike ride to the farmer’s market. I am also a huge yoga enthusiast, although I don’t make it nearly as often as I would like. I still love to cook and entertain friends and family whenever possible.
What is your favorite product?
Hmmm, that’s a hard one since we make so many amazing things…I think I would have to say the Brown Rice and Black Eyed Pea Bowl, because it’s light and nutritious. The Mexican Tofu Scramble is another favorite, packed with protein and flavor. Can we talk about products which haven’t been introduced yet? I think a new favorite will be the Amy’s Lemon Poppy Seed Cake…yum. I could probably pick a favorite in every category, but not just one absolute favorite!