Chef in Black: Salad Dressings

Pitch line of California-Asian infusion salad dressings
EntrepreneurDorene Humason
Asked For$50,000 for 10%
Deal$50,000 for 35%
SharkBarbara Corcoran
StatusOut of Business

Although the food industry can be oversaturated with new business ideas, delicious meals will always be welcomed by the consumer. Add to that the shift toward healthier diets and cleaner foods means that there is still a need for new products that support this niche. Salad dressing sales, specifically, are expected to increase exponentially over the next several years.

What is Chef in Black?

Chef in Black is a company, owned by Dorene Humason, that produces a line of California Asian Fusion salad dressings both in bottles and seasoning packets. The dressings are all natural and gluten free. The spices and dressing can be used for stir frying or as a marinade as well.

Founder’s Story

Dorene Humason had spent 25 years working for other people in the food industry. Her shifts were often stressful and exhausting and she had nothing to show for it. After one of those long and difficult shifts, Dorene decided that enough was enough. She was ready to put her knowledge and talents into her own creation.

Humason started working on developing a delicious salad dressing that she knew people would love. Her goal was to come up with something that would be natural, gluten-free and restaurant quality.

It took some time, but after experimenting with different combinations of spices, Humason eventually came up with the perfect dressing. She named it Jaden after the Chinese gemstone jade and was ready to introduce it to the world. Humason left her job and set out to launch her dressing and her company Chef in Black.

Chef in Black on Shark Tank

Humason appeared on Shark Tank, with her daughter, in 2010. She asked for $50,000 for 10% equity in her company Chef in Black and her Chinese Jaden Salad Dressing.

Humason reported that during her first year in operation, the dressing made it into 450 stores and made $78,000. During her second year, there was a packaging issue which resulted in profit loss. At that time, Chef in Black only made $41,000. At the time of her Shark Tank pitch, Humason had invested $300,00 of her own money into the company. Her dressing was found in 1300 stores at that time.

All of the sharks liked the taste of the dressing but most of them didn’t want to invest in it. Robert, Daymond, Kevin and Mr. Wonderful all bowed out quickly. Barbara offered $50,000 for 40% of the company with the contingency that Humason would initially focus on the dried seasoning packet. Humason countered with $50,000 for 35% equity. Barbara agreed and they made a deal.

Chef in Black Update: Where Are They Now?

Although Humason walked away from the sharks with a deal, the deal fell through before it went anywhere. Barbara was adamant about her contingency that the focus should not be on salad dressing bottles. Humason did not agree. When asked about her decision to walk away from the offer, Humason said, “Barbara is a brilliant business woman, but real estate is different than food.” She believed that bottles were the way to go and chose to stick with her gut.

Humason changed the name of her dressing to The Chef in Black California Asian Fusion Dressing. The product ended up in 2000 stores and also became available at Walmart and on Amazon.

Despite the initial success that Chef in Black had without Barbara’s involvement, Humason’s dressing did not take off the way she had hoped. The Chef in Black website is no longer active and the dressing is no longer available on Amazon or Walmart. It looks like the Sharks may have known more about the food business than Humason realized.

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