After stints at La Boulange and then its new owner, Starbucks, the French-born food entrepreneur is helping Munchery deliver on its promise of tasty mass-produced food.

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SAN FRANCISCO — Nicolas Bernadi knows tomatoes. He knows they can taste different in different dishes, different seasons, different weeks and days, different parts of the country. So for the vice president of food at meal-delivery startup Munchery, where achieving consistency as well as high quality in its dishes is both a mantra and a bedeviling oxymoron, tomatoes can loom large.

“We try and make the best foods with the best ingredients,” said Bernadi, 37. “But you can’t make it cookie-cutter, because food has variability. In a way, food has to be imperfect because one ingredient can’t look and taste the same every time and everywhere.”

Achieving and sustaining quality, locally sourced food, and then scaling it for the masses has been a yearslong passion for the French-born Bernadi. He joined red-hot San Francisco-based Munchery last year after helping turn La Boulange bakeries into a California treasure that Starbucks snapped up in 2013, only to announce it would shut the chain down this fall. Bernadi has taken the lessons he learned making enjoyable mass-produced food to Munchery, now flush with venture-capital funding and making a big splash in the crowded space of doorstep dining deliveries.

Nicolas Bernadi

Age: 37

Birthplace: France

Position: Vice president of food, Munchery

Most recent previous job:Led product development, marketing and manufacturing for all La Boulange products in Starbucks stores nationwide until he joined Munchery last year.

Education: MA in Physics from Ecole Polytechnique (France) and MBA from Stanford Business School.

Family: He lives in Redwood Shores, Calif., with his wife and four children.

Source: San Jose Mercury News

Q: So is your passion for food grounded back in your native Gaul?

A: I’m from Normandy and was trained as an engineer, but I’d always loved food. I was fortunate enough to be accepted to Stanford business school and when I came to the United States in 2004 for the first time, I soon got involved with a French company called Frial.

Q: I see their website touts “All natural frozen ready meals — blending the European expertise of our French chefs, with both classic and unique ingredients.” That inspired you?

A: In France, Frial had revolutionized the frozen-food industry, bringing high-quality meals to the frozen format. I started a subsidiary for them in 2006 in the States because here the quality of frozen food was really bad compared with France, where it was extremely high. I saw a huge opportunity.

Q: So you joined Frial’s revolution?

A: I started working with major retailers like Costco and Trader Joe’s, going back and forth to France talking to product developers and eventually launching more than 100 products at those retailers. Nobody in the United States knew how to produce the huge quantity of quality food that we were scaling.

Q: So when you left Frial in 2011, you were hoping to replicate those efforts and join your good friend and baker extraordinaire Pascal Rigo at La Boulange in San Francisco?

A: I joined as a partner to become Pascal’s right hand and was there for a year before Starbucks acquired us. I then became in charge of all product development and marketing for La Boulange and it was crazy because we had become in charge of the $2 billion food category for all of Starbucks’ 12,000 stores in the states. We created a product-development team as part of the acquisition because we wanted to keep the DNA of innovation and creativity here in San Francisco. In 18 months, we changed Starbucks’ entire food line and things like those breakfast sandwiches that are so amazing have been a tremendous growth driver for Starbucks.

Q: So, again, it was all about marrying high quality and high volume?

A: Yes. Starbucks had 70 million customers a week, and we wanted to do the best food possible at scale.

Q: So your move last year to Munchery makes perfect sense.

A: While still at La Boulange, I had been intrigued by Munchery and its ability to deliver quality food to people’s homes. In the past, the quickest time between the product being made in the kitchen and when it reaches the shelves was 24 hours. It has to go through a large distribution system and that takes tons of time. But Munchery was able to completely break that model and we wanted to talk to them.

Q: And that eventually led to your new job?

A: They wanted to bring in more help to scale the food and the timing for me was right so I joined them last December. There’s a ton of money going into the food space now because new technologies enable people to connect with food and food providers in a completely new way.

Q: That brings up competition — and you’ve got a ton of it. How does Munchery stand out from the crowd of people bringing food to our homes like Sprig and Postmates?

A: You’re right: They’re bringing food from all over the place, from restaurants, from central kitchens. But we want to be way more than simply a service delivering food; the goal is to become a company with a completely new type of personal and emotional connection between our employees and customers, where people know the name of the person bringing them their food because they do things like text them before they arrive and after they’ve gone.

Q: And what about the food your employees are delivering around town?

A: We’re trying to go as deeply as possible into the food chain to find the best ingredients by partnering with the best local producers we can find. Our goal is to have as many deep partnerships with local farms as possible and help them promote their business. We have an amazing platform to help them reach out to new customers because the question we get asked the most by our customers is ‘Where are your ingredients coming from?’ ”

Q: Munchery recently announced an $85 million funding round and said it would use the money to expand operations and even lower the cost of meals. What else have you got up your sleeves at Munchery?

A: We have a very promising future and we want to grow fast but in the right way. Our core customer base enjoys the simplicity of ordering the way it’s now set up, so we won’t change that. But we will push harder and harder on our ingredients sourcing. There are so many opportunities out there; wine is also becoming a very big category for us and we could one day be the Trader Joe’s of wine delivered to your house. We want to become the trusted place where people know that whatever they order will be the best.