Meet Christine Malanga, Mosaic’s head chef.
A New Yorker of 13 years, Christine stumbled upon food as a passion almost purely by coincidence — working as a production assistant at The Food Network, Christine got her first taste of the food world through the chaos of set life: from working the green room to picking up Rachael Ray’s wardrobe in the Soho, Christine was inspired by the craziness of the cooking world, and decided to swap the production studio for the kitchen. She graduated from the International Culinary Center and kicked off her post-grad career working behind the scenes on top Food Network shows like the Barefoot Contessa and The Pioneer Woman, before going on to join the product development team at Pret a Manger, a UK-based international sandwich chain.
Now, she’s the mastermind behind Mosaic’s recipes, sharing her love of colorful, healthy food that’s good from dish to doorstep. Christine is passionate about making food that’s accessible and delicious — food that’s made for everyone.
Get to know Christine in her own words, via a few of our burning questions.
What do you love about Mosaic?
I love the impact and the potential we have to make good food accessible to everyone. We have a super passionate team that’s small but mighty — frozen is not a limitation to me, it’s just the means through which we bring our food to people. Mosaic is great because it gives us the ability to create dishes that everyone hopefully everyone can one day try.
Could you tell us a little bit about your food philosophy?
At the heart of it is the idea that good food should be easy. There's so much out there these days in terms of options, but it always seems like the healthiest options are either super inconvenient or super expensive. At the end of the day, we want good, healthy food to be yummy, accessible, and approachable. So I'm all about designing dishes that taste and feel great to eat.
When I'm developing recipes, a bit part of that is making sure that I introduce lots of color into the dish. Color is a really important part of cooking. Of course, it makes our dishes look great — but the most colorful dishes are often the healthiest because they contain tons of different vitamins and nutrients from a broad range of vegetables.
Any specific cuisine you’re drawn to?
In general, I love really bold flavors. Cuisines with strong sweet, savory, umami and spicy notes are always really fun to cook. You find a lot of that in Asian cuisine, but also in the simplicity of Mediterranean and Italian. Those are some of my favorites — but it's easy to find things to love about just about any flavors from around the world!
What’s a typical day like for you?
When I’m cooking up a new recipe, I’ll kind of go crazy in the kitchen just throwing together whatever I think might work well, which is the most fun part for me. I’ll experiment with ingredients that have been on my mind and then I’ll go back and forth on the computer to calculate and make small tweaks to the recipe to get everything just right. I’ll also field a few phone calls throughout the day with suppliers, or talk through new recipe ideas with Matt (Mosaic's co-founder), and track food quality and customer feedback.
You mentioned ingredients being on your mind. What are you cooking with these days?
I've been cooking with a lot of white miso lately. It's so versatile — it can make amazing dressings but is also a really cool flavor to incorporate into a stir fry. The other day, I made sweet potatoes with miso butter. Delicious!
Before starting at Mosaic, how often would you buy or eat frozen food?
It’s funny, my girlfriend and I used to rent a car, drive across the bridge to Jersey, and just do a run to Trader Joe’s and buy 20 of their frozen curries at a time. Besides that, I’d say I eat frozen a couple of times a week, like frozen veggies, frozen naan, or frozen cauliflower rice. It's a really incredible format that helps reduce food waste and can be super-delicious when prepared right.
Where do you draw inspiration for your cooking from?
Definitely from restaurants that I go to, and menus. And just looking at photos — I know it’s so cliche to say “from Instagram” [laughingly], but I’m such a visual person so just seeing something makes me think, “Oh, I want to try this” and experiment. But definitely any restaurants I go to, whether it’s in the U.S. or not, just looking at their menus can be really inspiring.
What’s in the back of your fridge?
Grapefruit juice I tried to make a cocktail with but was just not good; pickled jalapenos; lemon juice; and chocolates from the UK that I don’t like [laughing] but feel guilted into keeping because they’re from my girlfriend.
What’s the weirdest thing about your job?
Probably that I’m so sick of food by the end of the day that I don’t want to eat dinner [laughing]!
If you had to eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be?
What are the top 5 staples you think everyone should have in the kitchen?
Lemons! I can never have enough lemons. Maldon salt — so worth it. Good olive oil. Good bread, because I’m always like, what can I smear onto some toast? I put fresh bread in the freezer so it doesn't go stale. And I’d say canned tomatoes because you can do a lot with them, whether it’s pasta, soups, you name it.
What's your favorite Mosaic meal?
The Tuscan Pesto bowl — I like a good roasted veggie, and the combo of roasted purple cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and butternut squash is just perfect.