Linda Romine studied photography and graphic design in school, and now as a maker of granola, she enjoys using her artistic ability to make photo collages for her product packaging.
But her talents as a cook were developed a lot earlier. “My family made meals from scratch. No one would ever have thought of ‘cooking’ out of a box,” she remembers. “I was the youngest, so somehow I was put in charge of the baking. I probably fell for that because I could eat all the icing I wanted!”
Around 1970 Linda’s older brother brought some granola home with him from college. “It was a pretty new item at the time, but it tasted terrible. Like bird food. I thought, ‘I could certainly do better than this.’ So I began experimenting, starting with a recipe I found in a magazine. I used some pretty unusual ingredients in the beginning.”
The granola recipe changed and changed again. Then people who tasted it started to tell her she should package it and sell it. She thought she might “someday.”
In 1983 she decided to change careers from graphic design toward making a product. “I took a long time to consider what that product would be, but I really only thought in terms of food,” she says. “I knew that whatever I chose, it wasn’t going to be a hobby; it was going to be a business, and food is what I am passionate about.”
Once she had decided to make granola, she went for the top: the best ingredients in the tastiest combinations. She sold it immediately to four stores and the customer list began growing.
Linda says that the name "Oat Cuisine" came after about three weeks of pondering: “I wanted something clever, but not so obvious it would get old fast. High school French came in very handy.”
The 'Original' was the first and only product for about nine years, mostly because Linda felt it was pretty much perfect. But market forces prevailed, and Cranberry, Oil-free and Ginger Pecan were later born.
After the Hurricane Katrina disaster, Linda donated granola through a program initiated by Whole Foods. “You needed scissors to open the bags,” she recalls, “and I knew that would a problem for the people displaced by the hurricane. First, I bought a lot of Ziploc bags so people could deal with them. Then I started looking at reinventing my packages. I had been doing photo collages for years, so it was a pleasure to integrate those skills into the granola business.”
“We make a lot more than I did in 1983, but all the Oat Cuisine granolas are still made by hand in small batches, and all still use the original version of their recipes. We try to never lose sight of the fact that it's eaten by the spoonful, and that the energy you put into your work comes through to others. It may be subtle, but it's there.”