Phil Meldrum is CEO of FOODMatch, a producer of authentic, all natural Mediterranean foods, specializing in olives and antipasti. Founded in 1996, FOODMatch, headquartered in New York City, has more than 350 products that come from culinary rich and diverse countries including Greece, France, Italy, the United States, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, India, Mauritius, Morocco, Peru, South Africa, Spain, and Turkey.
Traveling with Phil is always an adventure, especially a culinary adventure. He’s a great cook, one with imagination and a sense of fun. He’s come by it naturally, through his travels and experiences. He’s spent a lot of time in the Mediterranean — mostly on his own but also with Oldways — and has a special fondness for the foods and wines of Greece, and the land that produces them.
The land makes me think of a wonderful story in Phil’s new book, Simply Mediterranean — the tale of the ingenious townspeople of a village near Sparta called Kefalas. Having once lost an entire year’s crop of olives (and their livelihood) to wildﬁres, they decided to outﬁt their trucks with ﬁreﬁghting equipment. Since then, they haven’t lost their crops to ﬁre.
Phil and FOODMatch are celebrating Mediterranean Month with Oldways. In addition, Oldways has partnered with Kroger’s Little Clinic for a month-long tasting program. If you’re close to one of the stores in Cincinnati, Columbus, Denver, or Nashville, we hope you’ll visit. And if you’re not close to one of the store samplings, you can still experience the tastes of the Mediterranean via the aisles of your own local supermarket and in your own kitchen. Simply Mediterranean!
I recently sat down with Phil to talk about his new book, Simply Mediterranean, and his philosophy and favorites.
Q&A with Phil Meldrum
Oldways: Simply Mediterranean really does illustrate how simple it can be to bring the Mediterranean Diet to American tables. But back in 1996, when you founded FOODMatch, it wasn’t quite so easy. Can you remember some of the challenges you faced in getting your business going?
Phil Meldrum: Our biggest challenge and ultimately most satisfying work was to educate the market about the best table olive varietals unique to each Mediterranean country and growing region. Just as consumers had been embracing wonderful, unique, regional cheeses and wines from the Mediterranean, they started discovering the unique world of table olives and the long traditions they represent.
OW: What were a few milestones that convinced you interest in the Mediterranean Diet was indeed growing in America?
PM: It was simply the awareness and appreciation of the ancient trinity of foods: wheat, grapes, and olives; foods that sustained the earliest civilizations. And most importantly, people did not have to sacriﬁce taste and pleasure in the pursuit of healthier eating.
OW: On a busy weeknight, what might you make for dinner at your house?
PM: We often toss together a one-dish pasta meal with olive oil, garlic, a small amount of pancetta, prosciutto, or chicken breast, and lots of vegetables, topped with fresh basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
OW: I love the focus of the chapters at the beginning and the end of the book — ﬁrst, vinaigrettes, sauces, and spreads, and then preserved and pickled specialties. How can a novice cook learn to make these a part of daily meals?
PM: These are the essential pantry items for quickly putting together easy and varied meals. In the case of vinaigrettes and sauces, once you make a batch or two and put them in your fridge, you are ready to go. And in the case of preserved specialties, widely available now, just make sure there are always some jars on hand for adding that satisfying punch of ﬂavor.
OW: Your book showcases some truly beautiful antipasti plates. What’s your favorite?
PM: That’s a tough one. It depends where I want to travel, without getting on a plane. To me, Greece feels like summer, France is for the days I’m in a classic mood, Italy anytime, Spain for that ﬂamenco ﬂair!
OW: And what recipe can we share with our readers to give them a delicious, simple taste of the Mediterranean?
PM: What is better than fresh, savory vegetables and olive oil? So, a classic Greek salad and Caponata (or the French version, Ratatouille) for me, are the essence of enjoying Mediterranean ﬂavors. Add some fresh grilled ﬁsh like our swordﬁsh recipe and it’s a heavenly meal!
BONUS RECIPE: Classic Greek Salad
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, rinsed, halved
1 ¾ pound fresh tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 English cucumber, peeled, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded, chopped
2-3 scallions, minced
4 ounces Feta cheese, sliced or crumbled
¾ teaspoon dried oregano
Red wine vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & freshly ground pepper
- Layer tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers in large bowl and season each layer with salt and pepper
- Sprinkle the scallions and olives on top followed by the cheese
- Sprinkle the oregano, splash a little vinegar and drizzle olive oil over the cheese and the salad
Sara Baer-Sinnott, Oldways President