Food Science Job Types - Research Chef

What are a research chef’s responsibilities at a food or food ingredient company?

At a food ingredient company, the research chef will use a new ingredient that was created for the customer in a finished product to show the customer how it could best be used in their products. For example, a bakery foods manufacturer contacts a flavor house and asks them to create a new blueberry flavor for their blueberry flavored granola bars.  A flavor chemist at the flavor house creates a new blueberry flavor based on the client’s specifications. Did the client want a flavor that was more sweet? More tart? more sour?  That flavor is then given to the food applications division to create new ideas using that flavor. These ideas are then given to the research chef who then applies those flavors to potential finished products. (Sometimes the research chef is the first to create a new product.) In either case, the research chef then creates a finished product for presentation to the client. The chef creates a variety of granola bars, using the new flavor, for the client to compare and contrast.  The clients and the sales and marketing teams generally attend these presentations, and discussion begins regarding what works and doesn’t work for the client.

A similar setting happens at a finished food manufacturer. For example, at a soup manufacturer, the marketing department works with the consumer research department and determines that the consumer wants healthier choices regarding canned soups. The research chef is told to create a new chicken soup that has less sodium. The research and development department will model their products after what the chef has created. They work hand in hand, tweaking the product, to create the perfect balance of lower sodium, yet tasting even better than the products that are already on the consumer shelves.

All companies work differently. These are just examples of what the process might be.

What are the qualifications needed for most research chef positions?

Research chefs generally have both a food science and a culinary degree. They need to understand the science behind product development, yet also have the creativity to develop new ideas and concepts. Most candidates have culinary experience, usually restaurant or pastry experience, behind them before they apply for this type of position.

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