Hear us now: gone are the days of dull camp food, of stale granola bars, plain oatmeal, and military-grade dehydrated dinners. We deserve something better, we say. We demand options on the trail. And now, at long last, it seems one trail food manufacturer has heard the call.
Good To-Go, an “on-the-go” foods company based in Kittery, Maine, is raising industry standards by offering quick, healthy, and interesting options like Indian vegetable korma, bibimbap, and pad thai for outdoor adventures. Each meal is light, packable, and dehydrated for a long shelf life.
The company’s head chef and co-founder, Jennifer Scism, is no stranger to good food: she earned her chops as the co-owner of Annisa, a nationally-recognized restaurant in New York’s Greenwich Village. She’s also cooked at multiple 4-star restaurants and even beaten the Iron Chef himself, Mario Batali, as part of a team on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef” program.
Scism developed Good To-Go after moving to Maine and meeting her now-husband and business co-founder, David Koorits. Together, they make portable meals to suit all diets, including gluten-free, low sodium, vegan, vegetarian, and preservative-free options.
Maine Outdoors & Adventure had an opportunity to chat with Scism recently about new recipes and celebrity fans.
Your background is in the restaurant industry. How did you get into making dehydrated meals for outdoor enthusiasts?
In the beginning, I was just doing it [on a small scale] for us. Then friends started trying our meals. Eventually, friends started saying, “You know, you should try and sell this.”
We spent 2013 basically on a fact finding mission to see if there was a market for this. From there, we went on to develop a brand, which took about a year. We only had two or three meals at that time. But you know, we were just kind of rolling with it. My husband and I never do anything easy. We were like, “Oh, this will be super fun,” and it has been. It’s been a wild ride. We’ve grown from just a little cape house in Kittery, and now we’ve built a barn and are developing another addition for a packing room. We’re moving into meat products—we’re doing a chicken gumbo that we’re expecting to release [in March].
How do you develop your recipes?
As a chef, I love to see what works and what doesn’t work. A lot of things don’t work. [laughs] And you know, hopefully you learn that before your batches get too big or your idea gets too far. I’m getting better at it now.
Have you tried any recipes that you thought were really going to work, and just didn’t?
We’ve definitely had failures. Even looking back at our first few meals, we’ve had to redo the process on them as they grow. In the beginning, doing a batch of 60 units is fine. But dial it up to 5,000, the process wasn’t working. It’s good to just see what doesn’t work, and then change it up. And there are recipes that I want to do that I know wouldn’t work. Like, wouldn’t it be amazing if I could do Chinese dumplings?
What’s the craziest place you’ve ever heard that your food’s been eaten?
Well, [Good To-Go] has been to Antarctica. About 3 months ago, David answered the phone, and he came running into my office afterwards. And he’s like, “Conrad Anker just called me. He’s going to Antarctica, and he wants only our food.” And of course, I’m a chef. I know things like Michelin stars. So I’m like, “Who’s Conrad Anker?” And David’s like, “He’s the greatest climber in the world!” We were actually at an outdoor industry retailer show recently and we got to meet him. It was great. I got to ask him things like, “How do you [prepare the food] at altitude?”
How does Good To-Go set itself apart from similar companies like Mountain House?
We were actually at an outdoor retailer show last July, and [representatives from] Mountain House came over and introduced themselves. It was super friendly. We were all talking, and I was like, “You can pretty much feel secure that I’m not going to be doing a beef stroganoff.” And they looked at our products and said, “Yeah, we’re not going to be doing bi… bibi…” and I told them how to say it: bibimbap.
For a company like Mountain House, they’ve been around for over 40 years. They’re freeze dried, so their process is different than ours [Good To-Go uses dehydration—Ed.]. And they seem to be aiming for more mainstream appetites. Our meals are basically my favorite foods. I lived in New York City for 23 years…and took a year off in 1998 to travel the world and basically eat. My palate is different than, say, Mountain House’s, and I think we’re both in agreement.
There are other companies out there that are doing the same thing. And that’s part of the stress. We’ve got to come up with more products and try to be amazing.
What’s your own favorite meal?
I have to say, everybody’s favorite is the thai curry, and I really do like that. But my go-to is the pad thai. I’m a noodle person. Other people are like, what can you not live without your entire life? What could you not give up? For me, it’s noodles.
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