Inventor of the McDonald's French Fry and Cheez Whiz, we salute you with mouths stuffed full of carbs and emulsifiers!
EDWIN TRAISMAN, 91, DIES, HELPED CREATE ICONIC FOODS
By Dennis Hevesi, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: June 9, 2007
Edwin Traisman, a food scientist who helped standardize McDonald’s French fries and develop Cheez Whiz for Kraft Foods, as well as researching the risks of E. coli bacteria, died Tuesday in Madison, Wis. He was 91 and lived in Monona, Wis.
The cause was heart disease, his daughter Jenny Denise Traisman-Waddell said.
Lisa McComb, a spokeswoman for McDonald’s, said of Mr. Traisman yesterday, “He truly made a significant contribution to McDonald’s fries.”
Mr. Traisman was manager of dairy research for Kraft in 1957 when he noticed long lines at a new drive-in restaurant called McDonald’s in Des Plaines, Ill. Within a year, he left his job at Kraft and opened the first of four McDonald’s restaurants that he would eventually own, three in Madison and one in Monona.
Soon after, Mr. Traisman’s research expertise came to the attention of Ray Kroc, the president of the McDonald’s chain, which had 200 restaurants.
Mr. Kroc had a problem. All of McDonald’s French fries were being made from fresh potatoes shipped from 175 farms and sliced and cooked at each restaurant.
“Ray thought the best potatoes came from Idaho,” Ms. McComb said. “But their crop season left several months when there weren’t enough fresh potatoes.”
Mr. Traisman and another food scientist, Ken Strong, were asked by Mr. Kroc to find a way to supply all the restaurants with peeled and cut potatoes that would hold their taste, color and crispness no matter the season. The solution was to quick fry the slices for up to a minute at 300 degrees to remove some of the moisture and then freeze them.
By 1972, frozen fries were being shipped to the 2,272 McDonald’s restaurants. Today, the company supplies frozen fries to 31,000 restaurants worldwide.
While he was at Kraft, from 1949 to 1957, Mr. Traisman led the team that combined cheese, emulsifiers and other ingredients into the bright yellow sauce called Cheez Whiz, a topping for corn chips, cheese steaks and hot dogs. It was introduced in 1953.
Mr. Traisman was born on Nov. 25, 1915, in Chicago, a son of Latvian immigrants. The only one of six siblings to graduate from high school, he went on to earn a bachelor’s in chemistry at the University of Illinois in 1936.
Besides his daughter Jenny, of McFarland, Wis., survivors include his wife, Dorothy; three other daughters, Barbara of San Francisco, Lisa of Monona, and Claudia Ward of Santa Rosa, Calif.; a son, Steven, of San Francisco; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
In 1975, Mr. Traisman returned to research as the senior program manager at the Food Research Institute of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The director of the institute, Michael W. Pariza, said yesterday that some of the projects Mr. Traisman worked on “affect everybody in the country.”
“When it became evident in the late ’80s that hemorrhagic E. coli was a serious health problem,” Dr. Pariza said, “Ed initiated research on how to control it.”
One strain of the common intestinal bacterium E. coli can cause bleeding in the colon and other internal disorders. It sometimes contaminates ground beef. Research by Mr. Traisman’s team in 1987 found that ground meat had to be thoroughly cooked at temperatures high enough to kill the bacteria to avoid potential risks.
“Other people certainly have confirmed it,” Dr. Pariza said, “but this was the earliest research on it.”