Suiting up for Mission Impossible — meet our two new scientists

Anja Leissner
Oct 31 · 5 min read

Not everyone understands what we are trying to do, why it’s hard, or even why we are doing it. Let me answer; it’s because we can and should! We believe in working hard to do better; develop superior tasting plant based products, reduce the environmental impact of food production, encourage better animal care and provide healthier options for those who give a damn.

Challenge accepted

Many refer to a delicious plant based cheese alternative as a Mission Impossible or holy grail. Why, you wonder?!? Well, to make a long story short, it’s really hard to get the texture, flavor and nutritional value to measure up to animal milk-based cheeses. This is a nut requiring some serious work to be cracked, and we think one key is a designed protein technology platform.

Excited founders after a great meeting in the Stockholm sun

There are many things we don’t know about the future and the road ahead. What we do know is that the only way to have a real shot at Mission Impossible is to build an extraordinary team of super stars that are up for a challenge. So, we set out to find them!

However, it’s not as easy as one might think. Our first attempt before the summer resulted in hiring a great guy for the wrong job, so we said our good byes and went our separate ways.

After that, we put the larger search on hold for a bit.

Overwhelming interest in our mission

Attempt number two was much more ambitious, and the addition of recruiting tools resulted in quite an overwhelming response from people who wanted to work with us. The 130+ applicants were from San Francisco, Madrid, Berlin, Copenhagen, Oslo and with multiple backgrounds and stories, all seemingly with a vision aligned with ours. It was amazing to have that kind of selection and possibilities to choose from, but how to choose?

Not all is gold that glitters, sometimes it’s beta carotene

Sorosh started off the process and did an amazing job going through all the applications, selecting and talking to more than 30 rising stars.

Then I talked to a young woman, originally from Portugal, who lived in Lund, and my gut feeling told me that she was the one from the very first time we spoke. The more I evaluated her, the more certain I became that my gut was right. I had found my reliable and innovative wing woman in the laboratory!

She has a maturity level and a way to look at life, despite her young age, that most people would envy her, and she spreads positive energy everywhere she goes. But don’t mistake her for a push over just because she is sweet, she can hold her own, and I know she will challenge me and help making this cheesy thing happen.

Next, Sorosh came to me with an application he was intrigued by. It was written by a young British woman currently living in Göteborg. That wasn’t the question though, but rather that she had no education or background from the food industry, she was an astrophysicist! Why was this stargazing woman interested in working with us?

I quickly realized that I would have to talk to her after reading her engaging application, and after that the potato was mashed.

She is a passionate vegan with an intriguing way of reasoning and a beautiful mind. If I could have dreamt up a scientist who would complement me in every way, she would be it! Once again, my gut told me that I’ve found another extraordinary member to our team!

Making sure it’s the right fit

But, having learnt from previous experiences, we wanted to ensure that these girls were the right fit for us and that Noquo Foods was right for them. Therefore, we had an extensive recruiting process consisting of a phone screening, a video interview, followed by an interview in person, an assignment, practical work in the laboratory and we talked to three references per recruit. The only thing remaining was for us all to meet. What would Sorosh think of my choices, what would they think of each other and how would we work as a team?!? With a bunch of butterflies in my stomach, I invited them both to Stockholm, arranged for us all to meet for dinner and to visit the laboratory the next day.

The Cheesey Angels i the laboratory in Södertälje

My worries were quickly scattered when I saw them standing together waiting for us to meet up. It felt completely natural, like we were old friends, when all four of us sat down together to enjoy some vegan treats. Sorosh and I looked at each other and smiled, knowing that this was it, the beginning of Noquo Foods gearing up and aiming for the stars.

The last assurance I needed was to observe them working side by side in the laboratory. I gave them some instructions and took a step back, completely confident in that even if they wouldn’t do things exactly the way I would do them, they got this!

And here they are!

And that, my friends, is the story of how we got our new team! So, without further ado, let me introduce you to our new crew members and super stars:

Suzy Jones and Raquel Pina at a vegan restaurant somewhere in Södermalm
  • Dr Suzy F Jones, a PhD in Astrophysics from UK with a bubbly personality and a great sense of humor
  • Raquel Pina, a Bachelors in Biology and a Masters in Food Technology and Nutrition from Portugal and as sweet as can be

I can’t wait to see what we will come up with together as we tackle the challenge of doing something no one else has done before, and to share it with all of you! We will keep you posted, so stay tuned as we officially gear up our R&D venture and get cheesy for realz.

//Anja, Founder and Head of R&D, Noquo Foods

Anja Leissner

Written by

Noquo Foods Blog

Using science and technology we aim to develop plant based food alternatives that are tastier, more nutritious, cheaper and more sustainable for our planet.

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