Don Ladanyi – CEO and Founder of TruFlavorWare

[quote style=”boxed”]If we don’t make mistakes, we don’t learn. Everyone knows that we learn from our mistakes. To err is human! I have made a lot of mistakes in the past, but I’ve also learned a lot too.[/quote]

Don Ladanyi pulled himself out of retirement at the age of 65 to launch TruFlavorWare, a line of eating utensils designed to help make food taste better to those undergoing cancer treatment. Don originally started his career as a member of the university team under the direction of Dr. Claude S. Beck, the heart surgeon that developed the first portable heart defibrillator in the early 1960s. Don also conducted engineering research at the National Institutes of Health and MIT. For many years, he owned a large restaurant in Cleveland that served high-quality organic food before it was popular to do so. His diverse background played well into the development of TruFlavorWare, and with the help of Proto Labs’ Cool Idea! Award program, the product line is well on its way.

What are you working on right now?

Fulfilling TruFlavorWare orders that are coming in from everywhere!

What does your typical day look like?

Blurred! I can’t tell day from night anymore as some of my days run up to 36 hours. So much to do and so little time.

What is the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

Working for my dad as a piece-work machinist while I was in high school was my worst job and at the same time, my best job.  I learned to be self-sufficient. I realized that I would never be happy unless I worked for myself, on my projects at my speed, under my own direction.

3 trends that excite you?

  • The “Farm-to-Table” movement.
  • Health Awareness.
  • Widespread acceptance of how good exercise is, both for mind and body. We take it for granted now, but it wasn’t always the case.

How do you bring ideas to life?

My mind is built to find solutions to practical problems. If something bothers me, chances are good I’m not the only one, so my brain just goes into “fix-it” mode.

In the instance of ideating TruFlavorWare, it all happened while I was eating at a Benihana. My girlfriend said her steak tasted better than mine. I wondered how that could be since both portions came from the same mix on the hibachi grille. But she was right – her steak did taste better.

As it turned out, the reason why was because she was using bamboo chopsticks and I was using a metal fork. I immediately rushed home to look into why this could be. I discovered that metal reacts with food substances in three different ways* that detract from food’s natural, pure flavor in a big way. Bamboo does not.

I then set about making an “Americanized” version of bamboo chopsticks as a familiar, easy-to-use “fork.” The only difference was that I had to come up with a material that could hold up to long-term use, unlike bamboo, which has a limited lifespan.  Thus, my TruFlavorWare invention was created after several years of dedicated trial and error research.

*The three ways that create aversive (bad) food taste when using metal flatware: (1) the inherent “metallic” taste of the metal itself. (2) Galvanic action which occurs when placing metal in your mouth that creates a negative taste sensation, sort of like licking a  9-volt battery as we did when we were kids. Not pleasant. (3) The bad-tasting ion generation reaction that occurs when food comes into contact with metal. Our taste buds are ion receptors for the most part and easily pick-up on this bad tasting ion generation. Our minds have been trained over time to block out the metal taste sensations. Unfortunately, this blocking action also takes out many other good tastes with it that we unfortunately won’t experience. Simple solution: eliminate the metal and “Savor ALL the flavor!”

What inspires you?

I absolutely love to solve day-to-day problems that I personally encounter in creative “out of the box” ways. At a salon I once owned, my construction crew sawed a new door opening, but unfortunately made the opening a foot taller than the actual door. It was a major problem for them, but to me it was an opportunity. I added some glass block on top of the door to let some natural light into the otherwise dark rear hallway. Problem solved, with a bonus too!

What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?

If we don’t make mistakes, we don’t learn. Everyone knows that we learn from our mistakes. To err is human! I have made a lot of mistakes in the past, but I’ve also learned a lot too.

In relation to TruFlavorWare, I could only wish that I had hooked up with a business partner sooner. Doing something like launching a new product line from scratch is a bit staggering, especially if it’s a one person show. There is nothing better than having someone to brainstorm with or to bounce ideas back and forth. Sometimes I felt like I was losing the forest for the trees. With my business partner, Donna Williams, on board now, things are a lot smoother. I’ve realized that ideas just seem to fall in to place if you have the right business partner to share and communicate with. Don’t be greedy. It’s important to work with someone!

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Network! The more people that you can interact with on your concept the better off you will be. Additionally, collaboration is the real social networking tool that has helped move TruFlavorWare along steadily and productively. Also, if you have a great product idea, get support for it! The Cool Idea! program was a big part of us being able to get where we are today.

What do you read every day, and why?

I catch up on the world news every day. Something that pertains to what I am currently doing is always happening in one way or another somewhere in the world.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?

I recommend “The Secret” for its inspiration and its motivation to succeed by never, ever giving up. Dreams can only become a reality with hard work. Without hard work and dedication, dreams can only, inevitably, become mere fantasies.

What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?

My computer, high-speed internet connection and Microsoft Word.

Three people we should follow on Twitter, and why?

Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet and Thomas Edison for obvious reasons of success.  However, my best guess is that they are not on Twitter.

Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?

Steve Jobs.

When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

Answering two questions ago.

What do you most wish for TruFlavorWare?

I’m so eager for more people to experience the benefits of using flatware that is non-reactive. I hear from people who’ve used it and love it, and I’m excited to hear more of these stories. TruFlavorWare offers a comfort that makes dining more enjoyable — I want to more people to know what a difference the material of your flatware makes!

Where do you ever find the time to sleep?

What is “sleep?”


I am more than happy to connect with anyone.  Feel free to drop me a line at [email protected] or visit for more information. If you’re curious about the Cool Idea! program, visit