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Health & Nutrition

Napa Valley chef exploring algae oil

March 4, 2016
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

Napa Valley chef Marisa Churchill explains the benefits of algae oil. Photo: Allison Levine/ Please the Palate

Napa Valley chef Marisa Churchill explains the benefits of algae oil. Photo: Allison Levine/Please the Palate

Allison Levine’s wine column in the Napa Valley Register is currently featuring former Top Chef contestant, Chef Marisa Churchill, who is introducing algae oil as an ingredient to this uber food conscious community.

“People often think that the simplest way to be healthy is to cook with oil instead of butter, but it’s not always that simple,” says Chef Churchill. “What kind of oil? How high is the oil in saturated fat?”

So, when she was introduced to algae oil a few months ago, she started to play with it in various recipes, from savory to sweet.

Thrive Algae Oil was started by San Francisco-based renewable fuel company Solazyme. While available for some time online, Thrive was launched in Southern California in late 2015. Its producers took over a house in the Hollywood Hills, overlooking Los Angeles. Each night, they hosted different events. One night, they invited Chef Churchill to come down from Northern California to cook a three-course meal, plus a few more small bites.

Solazyme is currently focusing much of their effort on food products made from algae. The algae harvested are grown in large fermentation tanks in a controlled environment. Inside the tanks, the algae consume renewable plant sugars to make oil in just a few days. A 600,000-liter tank of algae will produce 200,000 liters of oil. Like coconut and seed oils, the algae are expeller pressed, releasing the oil. The oil is refined and bottled, and any excess algae are used for renewable energy.

Thrive Algae Oil is 96 percent monounsaturated fats (the good, healthy fats) and only four percent saturated fats, compared to coconut oil, which is 90 percent saturated fat. Thrive Algae Oil also has 75 percent less saturated fat than olive oil. One tablespoon of algae oil gives you 13 grams of monounsaturated fat, which is the same amount you get from one avocado.

Thrive Algae Oil has a high smoke point of 485 degrees Fahrenheit, which means it can be used for frying, searing, sautéing or stir-frying. It has a mild flavor and is very versatile.

“I’m Greek,” Churchill explained. “I love olive oil, but olive oil also has a very distinct flavor. That makes it great for dipping bread and uses where you really want to enjoy the oil’s flavor, but that can be a challenge when you’re baking a coconut cake, brownies or preparing an Asian stir-fry. Algae oil has no discernable flavor, making it the perfect canvas for the flavors of your dishes to really shine through.”

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