Family Album - Q & A with Daniela Zuniga

February 27, 2020

Daniela Zuniga | Image: Ella Mitchell
Daniela Zuniga | Image: Ella Mitchell

Have you tried Mount Zero Smoked Extra Virgin Olive Oil? It was launched in 2019 and is an ahh-mazing one-of-a-kind blend, which marries Paperbark (Malaleuca) tree bark together with Frantoio Oil. 

The result is a subtle, smoky oil that adds a wonderful flavour without the fuss of having to smoke the food! It’s perfect for dips like babaganoush and hummus, and for fish and meats – and for those who’ve tasted it, it becomes a pantry essential.

But how did the idea of creating a local smoked extra virgin olive oil come about? The answer is Daniela Zuniga, Mount Zero’s Product Development and Quality Assurance manager.

Daniela, who grew up in Guatemala, joined the Mount Zero team in 2018 after finishing studies in food science. Since then she has been involved in developing a range of new products with Rich, Grant and the team – and her eyes light up discussing the process which she describes as collaborative and exciting, her “dream job”!

Daniela shares more of her background and experiences before joining the Mount Zero team in the Q & A below.

What is your name and title?
Daniela Zuniga, I am the quality assurance and new product development manager at Mount Zero.

How long have you been working for Mount Zero?
I’ve been at Mount Zero for a year and a half.

Where have you worked prior to joining the Mount Zero team?
I worked for an editorial company for a couple of years back home, but it never felt right – so it was easy for me to conclude that journalism really wasn’t for me!

So, I decided to take on a new challenge and to have an adventure, and I moved to Australia to study a Masters in Food Science.

While I studied I worked for a catering company which introduced me to local Australian ingredients, and I started to appreciate the quality of the Australian produce.

Once I graduated I was able to follow my true passion at Mount Zero.

What is your favourite thing about the work you are doing now?
My favourite part about my job is making new products; from the idea to the design, the experimentation and finally developing a commercial (and healthy!) end product that people truly love. I get inspired by trying new recipes at home and combining techniques and cuisines.

I also love being part of a company that tries to make a difference; who take on the challenges and create more sustainable packaging and the waste free market days where people are invited to bring their own containers to save on packaging.

Oh! And I can’t forget Richie’s dog ‘Roo’, she always brings smiles to the workplace!

What’s some of the most heard feedback from your customers?
The most common is that they love the products for their taste and quality and that they respect that all of the ingredients are locally sourced; collaborating and supporting local farmers and indigenous communities.  

What has been your career highlight?
Oh, that is definitely watching people’s reactions to products I’ve been developing! When I work at our waste free market days I love seeing people taste the dipping oils or our new Dukkha. Seeing their smiles is a huge, honest and satisfying reward!

What is your favourite Mount Zero Olives product and why?
My favourite olives would be the Mount Zero Arbequina Olives and the Mount Zero Wild Australian Olives, they are just so different to any olive I’ve ever tried before!

I also like the character that the citrus pressed oil and the smoked EVOOs bring to dishes. I use the lime pressed oil to finish dishes like carpaccio or guacamole and the smoked EVOO for hummus.

As you well know, we are forever building our staff Foodie’s bucket list – please add your tips for places to visit in Melbourne, and abroad.
One of my favourite restaurants in Melbourne would be Lucy Liu, they have the most delicious soft-shell crab pancake, a dish that you wouldn’t normally find in Guatemala!

Some of my favourite Latin American restaurants in Melbourne are La Tortilleria (Mexican) in Kensington or Pastuso (Peruvian) in the city.

And something to add to the bucket list would be to take a gastronomic tour in Peru, it is just the most amazing food. The wide array of incredible restaurants and the food in the markets is just as impressive!

And, finally, what recipe have you picked to share this month and why?  
I chose a fish taco recipe because homemade tortillas are part of the everyday food I would have in Guatemala, it’s a bit of home that I made more nutritious and tastier by adding the lentils to the flour.

Fish Tacos with Lentil Tortilla
Fish Tacos with Lentil Tortilla

It is an easy to make recipe and you can always fill them up with your favourite ingredients chicken, beef, fish or veggies, I chose fish tacos this time as is one of my go-to recipes during the warmer months.

Thanks for your time Daniela – and for your product development ideas. The Mount Zero Smoked Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a sure-fire winner!