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Jackie Diaz, creator of the Culinique line of Surprise Inside Food Molds, was born in 1959 in New York City. She and her family later moved to a farm in Granville, Ohio. Her father, a product developer for Bell Labs, and her mother, an artist, inspired her interest in both art and science. She was a budding inventor by age 12, when she designed and built a 'duplex' rabbit hutch out of an old cupboard.

For many inventors, a single "aha" moment can trigger a life-changing discovery. Diaz had her first of two of those moments on her 21st birthday, when her mother made her an ice cream cake. The cake, which was topped with ice cream that was exposed to the air, became messy very quickly as the ice cream began to melt. Years later, Diaz had her second "aha" moment when she made an ice cream cake for her son. In her version, she put ice cream in between two layers of cake. She noticed that the cake insulated the ice cream very well—at that moment she knew she was on to something.

While working for her husband's accounting practice in 1983, she developed a prototype for a two-part cake mold that would create a circular cavity for filling, with a pillar in the center that would give the cake stability. When the two parts were filled and pieced together, the cake would completely surround the hidden filling. With ice cream, this meant insulation that would keep it cold for up to an hour. The mold could of course be used for all kinds of other recipes as well.

Diaz sought the advice of a patent attorney, but was discouraged and temporarily shelved her idea. She instead continued to work as an accountant, and in 1987, she received her B.A. in Business Administration from Thomas More College. In 1991, Diaz's husband passed away. She decided to embark on a new career. She took her prototype to a lawyer who believed in her idea and encouraged her to begin the patent application process. Meanwhile, Diaz researched manufacturing processes for the molds. She found a manufacturer who offered to make the molds if she would pay for, market, and sell them. She took a chance and decided to go for it, establishing Cooks InOvation and dubbing her food mold kit "Culinique."

Diaz then began showing her products at trade shows, eventually catching the eye of QVC. When she finally showed her products on the home shopping channel, her entire stock of 2,000 units sold within seven minutes. She has appeared on QVC several more times, with similar results.

Now Diaz runs her business out of her Blue Ash, Ohio home. With a successful track record in the consumer kitchenware market established, she is currently planning to exercise her method patent rights and co-brand with frozen food manufacturers to produce desserts and entrees. She also continues to expand the Culinique® line of branded products, which now includes the Serv-A-Slice®, for slicing, serving and apportionment, Baker-Spade®, for icing and one-handed transfer of sticky cakes and entrees, and Cool-N-Glaze Racks® for cooling, filling, flipping and glazing baked goods. She also has several new kitchenware products in development and plans to introduce a smaller version of her food molds soon.

Diaz also plans to market very high-end Culinique® prepared desserts directly to specialty retailers and on her company website, www.culinique.com. When she isnít working, she cooks, canoes, fishes and plays golf. She also enjoys prototyping new products for new markets and mentoring other independent inventors. She says her most important piece of advice for aspiring inventors is that they should remain determined, not only to generate new products but also to germinate them.

[April 2003]

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