Food & Drink

Simmering Success

Lizbeth Lane’s sauces streamline tasty dishes

By Merrill Witty |

Confession of The Hunt editor: I hate to cook. I have a few tried-and-true recipes that I am grudgingly willing to make for special occasions, but I just don’t understand the allure of cooking on a nightly basis.

After getting laid off, Michael Dernoga, left, teamed with his neighbor Rid Francisco, who also was looking for a career change, and the pair made lemons into sauces.

You shop, you chop, you cook for hours and consume the finished meal in minutes. I don’t get it. I’d rather spend that time reading a book. Fortunately, I have a husband who is not averse to stopping by our nearby “gourmet-to-go” shop and bringing home dinner.

However, a new product has entered my life and all that is about to change. I have become wildly enamored of Lizbeth Lane Simmer Sauces.

After I quickly saute some chicken breast or veal cutlets, or some shrimp in a pan with olive oil, I dump in a jar of the sauce, simmer for 3 or 4 minutes, and voila: a meal! I just pour the results over some rice or pasta, whip up a green salad, and there I am.

But let’s backtrack to how I found my beloved sauces. They were sent to me by two guys from Berwyn, neighbors who were forced to reinvent themselves after our economy tanked.

Rid Francisco and Michael Dernoga are two terrific cooks who are complimented often on their great kitchen skills and creative recipes. So, last winter they decided to try to make it as entrepreneurs. They set out to make sauces to sell in grocery stores.

Michael A. Dernoga, CEO/Director of Operations for Lizbeth Lane, had spent nearly 30 years in the health care field. He has held positions as a senior executive for large for-profit outpatient companies.

In the fall of 2009, Michael was suddenly laid off and was forced to think about his alternatives. Inspired by his daughter, who asked: “Dad, what do you really like to do?” he began talking with his good friend and next-door neighbor Rid about  their common love of food and cooking and their desire to move in new  directions. Out of those conversations Lizbeth Lane Gourmet Cuisine, and its collection of Simmer Sauces, was born.

Ridgely B. Francisco, President/Chief Innovations Officer of the new company, spent 35 years in the creative side of the advertising business. He began his career as an art director and worked for various Madison Avenue ad agencies until 1981, when he moved to Philadelphia. There, he worked in ad agencies until 1997, then established his own advertising and communications business.

Around this time he developed a passion for fine food and cooking and became an accomplished and creative cook at home. As the economy took a dive in 2008, so did his business. Like Michael, he pondered his future and how to move ahead.

It had to be something to do with food, he felt, and it had to be something unique. Perhaps he could invent and sell a really high-quality, great-tasting product. He huddled with his neighbor Michael and created Lizbeth Lane Gourmet Cuisine.

Today, Rid and Michael are marketing their four simmer sauces and four jams to upscale  gourmet shops and will be seeking wider distribution in finer food stores nationwide. The items are available in many stores locally and online. Go to their website: www.lizbethlanecuisine.com to find them. They are also developing other restaurant-quality culinary items to be launched in the near future.

And the name Lizbeth Lane? It’s the name of the street they live on.

“We tried to come up with some fancy, distinguished name but all of them seemed so … contrived,” says Rid. ” ‘Hey, why not the street we live on,” we thought. It’s folksy, it says neighborly, it has a ring of sophistication … done!”