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My Cornell Story: Deepak Amin '88

Savoring Success at Deep Foods

periodiCALS, Vol. 7, Issue 1, 2017

Deepak Amin

Right after I graduated from Cornell with a degree in food science, I joined Deep Foods, the Indian foods company that my parents established in 1977. Fortunately for me, food is really easy to connect to, and, in fact, anyone walking into our facility at Deep Foods knows within seconds exactly what we’re up to and immediately gets a craving to eat. You don’t even have to say or see anything—just breathe it in. If it tastes as good as it smells, then have we succeeded?

Not quite—food manufacturing is itself getting more complicated by the day, and meeting quality control challenges is an achievement we celebrate at Deep Foods. I first studied HACCP food safety regulations at Cornell two decades ago, before inspectors themselves knew what the acronym meant—hazard analysis and critical control points, for the uninitiated—and today there are another hundred layers of compliance. We at Deep Foods have adopted a culture in which the strength of our quality assurance is as much a sign of success as a strong bottom line.

Despite our resolve and passion for quality assurance, making great tasting food is the core of our business, and the spirit of innovation runs deeply throughout our organization. The better we get at developing recipes, the more we end up innovating and investing. If we develop a product whose taste surpasses everything out there, we push ourselves to scale up the process and market it. Today, from a business that started with a modest 650-square-foot factory, we now have plants dedicated to bakery, frozen meals, snack foods, individually quick-frozen vegetables, savory snacks, and quick-serve restaurants, and we are currently starting fresh meals and a bottling line—none of which were acquired.

This level of innovation is the result of an underlying principle that I have learned to appreciate over time and now reinforce through our corporate vision. In my mind, innovation is a three-step process, and the last step is the clincher.

The first step is correction: You take a potato out of the ground and clean the dirt off, skin it and remove the eyes. For this process, you need tools and basic intelligence. The second step is value addition: You julienne the potato and perfectly fry it and voila… you have french fries. This process step requires creativity. The final process step is presentation—or celebration—you plate it beautifully and serve it with a friendly smile. The last step requires leadership and vision, and it perpetuates the entire process. A french fry is just a french fry, but it’s the final step of how you bring it to the consumer that puts the meaning and purpose in everything you do.

At Deep Foods, we keep that meaning and purpose alive by firstly striving to offer opportunities for our staff to learn and grow. Second, there is an undying spirit of creativity and development. Finally, there is the strong focus on servant leadership throughout all our departments. This is what all successful organizations do, and it’s a blessing to have this in the business’ roots from so early on thanks to my parents.

In hindsight, success hasn’t been a goal or place but rather a feeling of fulfillment that keeps driving you to achieve through the ups and downs. Here’s the truth: The feeling didn’t arise in me. In fact, it was actually in my surroundings, and I simply became a part of that. It’s amazing when you’re part of something that’s palpable and engaging, that is enriching you with knowledge and affording you the opportunity to serve something outside of yourself. I count myself lucky: It’s hard to believe the same feeling I felt as a youth studying at Cornell is with me now as I lead my family-run food business. For me, that is success!

Deepak Amin ’88 is president and CEO of Deep Foods, the largest U.S.-based manufacturer of Indian foods, which produces several lines of Indian foods including Tandoor Chef, Babu’s pocket sandwiches, Healthy Tiffin, Recipes of Udupi, and many others. They opened the first Indikitch, a Chipotle-style Indian food chain based in New York City, in 2014. A food science major at Cornell, Amin was born in Gujarat, India, and resides in New Jersey with his wife, Dipali, and sons, Kishan and Nisheel.