More than a toque, their hats include sales, marketing, production and R&D.
In the world of food manufacturing and R&D, there are chefs and there are food scientists. Both sets of skills are needed to create food products that are delicious and shelf-stable.
But a relatively new, hybrid discipline has inserted itself into the food industry: “Research Chef.” Sometimes called a “culinary scientist” or a “corporate R&D chef,” these experts are well-versed in both food science and the culinary arts.
Research chefs work in all sectors of the food industry, helping optimize finished products such as soups, seafood and dressings for the foodservice groups, as well as ingredient systems like sauces, spices and breading for food manufacturers to use in their finished products.
There are specific job responsibilities, such as customer presentations, attending trade shows, trend research and creating gold standard prototypes — all are part of the research chef’s job. But the most important thing a research chef must relate to is how to create a formula or recipe on the bench that can be mass-produced. They need to have a good understanding of their manufacturing equipment and how to work with brix, pH, viscosity and a wealth of other parameters both chemical and culinary to ensure the final products are always consistent.
Looking in on a typical day for a research chef gives a more comprehensive view of that role within a company, highlighting the types of skills these chefs need to develop safe, consistent quality products…